Senate bill directs telcos to unlock mobile devices upon end of contract

The Senate Subcommittee on the Network Freedom Act chaired by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian has begun the process of ironing out the details of Senate Bill 1643, which seeks to regulate the locking of mobile wireless devices to specific telecommunications networks.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian

Section 4 of the Network Freedom Act now prohibits telcos or other retailers of mobile wireless devices from selling units, issued without subscription contracts, that are locked to a specific network.

The new version of the bill also provides that subscribers be fully informed of the unlocking process, with the terms stipulated in writing under the mobile communications service contract.

“The goal is to make it easier for the consumers to unlock their mobile devices, if they wish to do so,” Gatchalian said.

“Telcos will be mandated to inform their subscribers of the official channels for unlocking, as well as the method and manner for unlocking, making the process completely transparent,” the lawmaker added.

Meanwhile, in response to Gatchalian’s query on how fast a phone could be unlocked, representatives from Globe Telecom and Smart Communications who participated in the committee’s Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting said the time period varies per device manufacturer.

In any case the members of the TWG, including the telco reps, agreed that telcos must automatically unlock devices within 24 hours upon completion of the service contract or upon full payment of the device should a subscriber wish to pre-terminate his contract.

The group also clarified that unlocking will be done by the telcos free of charge and will not void the warranties provided by the manufacturers.

Gatchalian said the TWG will wait for the findings of the study to be conducted by Department of Information and Communications Technology and the National Telecommunications Commission to determine a reasonable lock-in period, citing the nine-month lock-in period used in New Zealand as a global best practice.

“But the buying power of a New Zealander and the buying power of a Filipino is widely different. I think the buying power of New Zealanders is much higher so that they can shorten the time period. Iba naman iyong sa atin. Sa atin, the buying power is lower, baka nga mayroong mga gustong 12 months or even longer. But I think to be more educated about it, we’re requesting the NTC and DICT to come up with an analysis on this,” the senator added.

Comment on this post