OTTAWA – New Democrats are celebrating a major reversal of policy on the part of wireless giant Rogers Communications today. In response to widespread public support for the NDP’s Cell Phone Freedom Act, the company is now offering to remove the network locks placed on their customer’s phones. Network locks restrict cell phones to work only on the network of the carrier selling them. Until now, Canada was the only developed country where the standard industry practice of wireless carriers was to lock all mobile phones sold, and to not unlock.
“Network locks limit consumer choice, and are bad for market competition.” said Bruce Hyer, who introduced the bill in June. “Wireless customers can’t just go to another carrier with their phones and use them on another network, even if they’re not on contract. These locks are a way to digitally chain customers to one company, and they artificially restrict competition.”
“That’s why I’m very happy Rogers has agreed to take the first steps to comply with the Cell Phone Freedom Act. This is a first step to increasing options for consumers, and to increasing competition which will lower prices and improve service for Canadians.” added Hyer.
Together, Bell, Telus and Rogers control 96% of the Canadian wireless market. While the Rogers policy change is a partial victory, New Democrats say much more is yet to be done.
“I’m calling on Telus and Bell to catch up with their competition - and the rest of the world.” said New Democrat Consumer Protection Critic Glenn Thibeault. “They need to start unlocking the full range of their customer’s handsets, including iPhones. And they need to do this without barriers. Whereas our legislation mandates carriers unlock their customer’s phones for free outside of contracts, Rogers is only offering to unlock for a $50 fee. That’s a lot to pay for full use of hardware that their customers already own.”
A 2009 study by the 34-nation Organization for Co-operation and Development found that Canada had amongst the highest prices for mobile phone calling amongst all OECD countries, and reports by the Seaboard Group, a wireless industry consultancy, implicated high prices as the reason Canada had the second-lowest mobile phone usage rate in the developed world.