Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, has just published a guide to unlocking mobile phones. It claims to be everything you need to know on unlocking a mobile phone, this is what Ofcom tweeted:
Mobile phone locking and unlocking – all you need to know including the current policies of the major providers https://t.co/8XOyGEK4KY
— Ofcom (@Ofcom) April 8, 2016
Unfortunately it’s not everything you need to know. Because that’s too complicated. It doesn’t explain why mobile phones are locked. It doesn’t mention the words “Handset subsidy”. Nor doex it mention that Apple phones often have different rules because the are sometime unlocked through iTunes. The prices in the table Ofcom prints are wrong when it comes to iPhones.
This “complete” guide has comments like “Usually”, and “A small proportion of smartphones may be unlocked”. This is not useful information. Fuss Free Phones works with Go Mobile, which in addition to selling phones on Fuss Free Phones also uses EE and Three. By stocking unlocked phones the shop can decide at the time of sale which is the best network or tariff to sell with which phone. The Ofcom guide completely fails to understand this. There is no element in the guide which accounts for where a phone has been bought. Go Mobile, Carphone Warehouse, The Apple Store and operator shops all have different rules.
But perhaps the thing which makes the guide most useless is that it completely fails to acknowledge the grey market for unlocking. This is fiercely complex depending on what phone you want to unlock, and what version of the handset software it has. It’s also fraught with legal and moral issues.
Normally the patronising response to a well-meaning organisation doing a light-weight job of something horrifically complicated is to say “well you can’t fault them for trying”. In this case you can. Ofcom should jolly well know that this is a deeply complex subject and should know that it’s a mistake to do it badly.
A better solution would have been to explain to a customer how to look up the IMEI of the phone (type *#06#) and then have a database where the customer could type in the number and be told what they need to do with that phone.
But Fuss Free Phones has a much simpler solution.
Our phones are not locked.