Unlocking cell phones allows handsets to be used on other wireless carriers. Once the customer’s phone has been paid off or the contract has been fulfilled, wireless carriers have agreed to unlock them.
The CTIA’s (voluntary) Key principles of Unlocking are:
- Disclosure of unlocking policies to consumers. Carriers agree to make their policies on postpaid and prepaid unlocking of mobile devices easy to understand and accessible.
- Postpaid Unlocking. Upon request, carriers will unlock mobile wireless mobile devices or provide information to consumers to unlock their devices.
- Prepaid unlocking policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.
- Notice. Carriers that lock devices will clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the time when their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock devices remotely without additional fee. Carriers reserve the right to charge non-customers or former-customers a reasonable fee for unlocking requests.
- Response time. Carrier will unlock eligible mobile devices within two business days of receiving a request.
- Deployed personnel unlocking policy. Carriers will unlock wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing.
Carriers allowed for cell phone unlocking in the past; but earlier this year the process became illegal, explains C/Net, after the Library of Congress opted not to renew an exemption in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The CTIA expects carriers will “move quickly to implement these principles, committing to implement three of these principles within three months and the remainder within 12 months.”