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article imageCanada passes law forcing all new smartphones to be sold unlocked

By James Walker     Jun 19, 2017 in Technology
Canada has announced it is outlawing the practice of "locking" smartphones to a particular mobile network. The strategy is used by carriers to prevent subscribers from easily moving to another provider. Under the new law, all phones must be sold unlocked.
The change will give significant new freedoms to Canadian smartphone consumers. When you purchase a new phone from a carrier, it's almost certain to be locked to that provider. If you try to use another network's SIM card with your phone, it won't work until you provide the unlocking code. You can't obtain that without contacting your original carrier, who'll usually charge you for the service.
In Canada, this anti-consumer procedure will soon be a thing of the past. Under new rules announced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) last week, all mobile devices sold in the country must be unlocked going forward. The legislation will take effect on December 1, 2017, and see all future smartphones left ready to use on any network.
Consumers who currently own a locked phone will have the right to demand it be unlocked free of charge from the same date. Service providers will be obliged to give you the unlock code when you request it, letting you take your handset to another network without having to pay anything.
The new rules are described in the CRTC's "Wireless Code," a mandatory code of conduct for Canadian providers of cellular network services. It's supposed to act for the consumer, preventing providers from unduly limiting what you can do with your phone. Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC, said that while the Code has been effective, the new modifications around unlocking directly address the feedback from Canadians.
"The Wireless Code has helped make the wireless market more dynamic to the benefit of Canadians. While they appreciate the Code, they told us loudly and clearly that it could be more effective," said Blais. "We have listened to them. The changes and clarifications we are announcing today will give Canadians additional tools to make informed choices about their wireless services and take advantage of competitive offers in the marketplace."
Alongside the unlocking rules, the CRTC has also clarified additional elements of the Wireless Code around the use of family and shared plans. These include a narrower definition of the identity and role of the "account holder." The Wireless Code now sees this person as the individual who allows everyone else on the plan to consent to charges beyond the regular caps for data usage and roaming.
The CRTC confirmed that service providers are allowed to let account holders nominate other users on the shared plan to consent to extra charges too. In this instance, all the caps in effect apply on a per-user basis, so none of the other members of the plan are impacted if one user exceeds their limit and starts to run up charges for additional usage. The simplified rules should help families who use this kind of plan while providing extra guidance for network operators.
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