Millions of us all over the world unlock their mobile phones or use profession cell phone unlocking services to remove the restrictions place on the handset by most network service providers to prevent you from changing network. But the truth is many of us although we actively do unlock our mobile phones are still unsure if it is actually legal. The industry of cell phone unlocking is very misunderstood, but if you read this article you should gain a clearer understanding of how cell phone unlocking is completely legal.
Mobile phone unlocking is not illegal anywhere in the world; it is simply frowned upon by network service providers because they want you to stick with their network. However you must tread carefully when it comes to contract phones. The law states that if the phone is your property then you have the right to unlock it and do as you please with it. But you only ‘own’ your handset once you have paid for it in full, be that via an upfront and full payment for the purchase of a sim free or pay as you go handset, or once a contract has been paid in full. If your contract is still ongoing, this means the handset technically belongs to the network service provider, and them finding out that you have unlocked it could result in legal action.
The network service providers will let you believe that the reason they put SIM locks on their mobile phone handsets is so that the consumer can receive the handset for a below RRP price due to the restriction in freedom of network service provider choice. Then if the consumer decides to stick with that network service provider for a certain period of time then they will get back the money lost when the customer got the handset for lower than RRP. That theory makes sense when it comes to cell phones on contract mobile as the customer usually gets the phone for nothing or at a much reduced price. But it doesn’t stick when it comes to pay as you go mobile phone handsets, as you often don’t get much if anything knocked off the retail price for those, and the network service provider can make a huge profit on the handset. The reality is it is much easier to pick and choose between network service providers with pay as you go, because there is no contract tying you down, so the networks need a new way to make sure you stick with them.
The networks unfortunately are within their rights to put a SIM lock on their mobile phones, however they cannot stop you from removing the SIM lock either, as long as you own the handset. All you need to do is either pay the network their required fee to unlock the cell handset for you, or find other cheaper or free but often slightly riskier means of unlocking the cell phone.