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Monday, 16 May 2011

Consumers charged £400 Million for Mobile Freedom

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Over half (55%) of GB mobile users are tied into one mobile operator, with locked handsets unable to accept other SIM cards
Big mobile networks hold consumers hostage to the tune of £430 million to liberate their mobile phones

Millions[1] of mobile users are unable to access the best deals due to their handset being locked to one mobile provider, according to a new study by SIM-only mobile network giffgaff.

The YouGov research reveals that over half (55%) of Great Britain’s mobile customers – 25 million[2] people – own locked handsets, which prevent them from freely switching to use alternative network SIM cards. A probable reason for this is the level of customer confusion surrounding the issue. Almost a third of mobile users (28%) are unsure if unlocking is even legal, and a further 30 per cent wrongly assume their network is doing them a favour by locking their handset to prevent theft.

To make the situation worse, big mobile networks are charging each consumer £17 on average to unlock their mobile phone, meaning consumers could collectively be charged £430 million[3] to liberate their mobiles. These charges are in stark contrast to consumer expectations, with over half of respondents (57%) believing unlocking should be offered by their network provider free of charge.

Mobile users are keen to get more information about how to unlock their mobile phones, with two thirds (66%) thinking that mobile networks should be required to provide this at the point of purchase. giffgaff has decided to launch its very own “Unlockapedia” to help fill the information gap left by other mobile networks. Mike Fairman, CEO of giffgaff, said:

“Consumers risk being held hostage by their mobile network to the tune of £400 million simply to switch networks with their existing phone. The practice of selling mobile phones locked to one network, or SIM-locking as it is known in the industry, is having a big impact on consumers’ ability to get the best deal on the market.

“As giffgaff is community-led we want to help our members make informed decisions, and for that reason we decided to create an easy to use, “Unlockapedia”. I’d urge anyone who’s thinking about switching networks whilst holding onto their handset to check it out for unbiased advice that could save them money.”

Despite the consumer uncertainty surrounding unlocking, there is a clear demand for unlocked handsets with almost two thirds (62%) indicating that if they were given the choice they’d always prefer to buy an unlocked mobile in future. Many mobile users would find it useful to be able to use multiple SIM cards to:

Leave their mobile network quickly and easily if they are unhappy with their services (56%)
Get cheaper calls/texts on holiday (48%)
Use more than one network for call/text services (39%)

For more information on unlocking please visit the “Unlockapaedia” at which gives consumers access to a comprehensive source of information on unlocking on the web. It covers everything from the legality of unlocking to an in-depth exploration of different unlocking methods and also provides consumers with a quick and easy to use comparison tool to help them find the cheapest unlocking services for their mobile.

[1] 55% of those asked said they owned a locked mobile phone
[2] Blue Rubicon has calculated this figure based the ONS’ current figure of the GB adult (18+) population. 97% of 18-65 year olds own a mobile phone and 55% of them own a locked handset equating to c.25 million people.

[3] Blue Rubicon calculations reveal that the average cost charged by mobile operators to remove SIM locks is £17.26. If all 25 million owners of locked handsets were to unlock their mobiles it would cost a total of £ 431,500,000.


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