Good news if you’re an iPhone owner with Bell or Virgin – the carriers will reportedly unlock that bad boy for you. Of course, with this being the Canadian cellphone industry, there are many caveats to go with that. One is, you have to own the phone outright, two is that you can’t be on contract and three is that you can’t be a prepaid customer. Oh, and it’ll cost you the tidy sum of $75.
Bell and its subsidiary are finally joining its Big Three cohorts, Rogers and Telus, in offering the “service,” although the company looks to be alone in charging such a hefty fee. Telus recently cut the cost of its iPhone unlock to $35 from $50, which is what Rogers still charges.
Why is Bell’s fee higher? Hey, buying sports teams and broadcasters doesn’t pay for itself, y’know?
All three carriers began offering unlock services on other devices some time ago, after politicians starting making noises like private members’ bills that would prohibit locking in the first place. The iPhone and its hefty cost, meanwhile, has evidently been a special case till now.
As the $75 fee attests to, it’s time for politicians and regulators to go further. There is simply no reason why carriers should charge subscribers anything for unlocking devices they’ve already paid for. It’s a blatant anti-competitive fee designed to discourage customers from switching carriers, or to ding them one final time when they do.
That goes double for subscribers on contracts – they’re already bound by termination fees if they break their agreement early, in which case they should have immediate and total access to and ownership of their device. Refusing to unlock their device is just an extra kick in the pants.
This is an aspect of service that the Canadian Radoi-television and Telecommunications Commission should definitely address in its current effort to create a wireless code with the public’s input. If anything, the regulator should follow the lead of countries such as Chile, Singapore, Greece and Israel, which have outlawed the act of locking phones in the first place.