The regulator, Ofcom has introduced new rules which will ban mobile phone companies from selling 'network locked' mobile phones from December 2021.
Mobile phones can be locked to a particular network which means they cannot be used with SIM cards from other networks. This prevents people from easily switching mobile service providers at the end of their contract period, because network unlocking a mobile phone can be costly and/or complicated.
Research by Ofcom has shown that more than 33% of customers decided against switching their mobile network provider because they were put off from having to try to unlock their phone, and nearly 50% experienced difficulties in trying to do it.
Some phone owners don't even realise that their device is locked to a network when they switch mobile providers, which ends up causing them to have no mobile service or signal while they wait for their phone to be unlocked.
Mobile companies such as O2, Sky, Three and Virgin Mobile have already abandoned the practice of network locking their phones and only sell unlocked handsets that can be used with any network.
Other phone companies like BT Mobile, EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone still sell mobile devices locked to their network, though some have already responded to say they will comply with the Ofcom guidelines and implement the changes before they come into force.
Switching mobile network providers has become easier than ever with the ability to transfer and keep your mobile number using a PAC code. With the upcoming ban after December 2021, there will be one less barrier preventing customers finding and changing to a better mobile service or deal.