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On December 18, 2019, Ofcom announced a proposal to ban the sale of locked mobile handsets to residential customers due to the number of potential difficulties they face when it comes to unlocking their devices.


  • Policies regarding handset locking differ greatly between operators and charges also vary, and this portrays a confusing picture for customers. Therefore, prohibiting such approaches would ensure harms are effectively addressed.

Features and Benefits

  • Assesses Ofcom's proposal to ban locked handsets.
  • Analyses the difficulties customers face when unlocking devices.

Key questions answered

  • What are the various handset locking policies adopted by operators in the UK?
  • How effectively would the two regulatory options outlined by Ofcom address harms?

Table of contents

Ovum view

  • Summary
  • Potential difficulties customers face when unlocking handsets can deter them from switching
  • Option one: Providers must sell unlocked devices to their residential customers
  • Option two: Providers must either unlock devices or send all residential customers the code to unlock it
  • Many countries have some form of handset locking law, but few have banned the practice outright


  • Further reading
  • Author

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