Charges for phone unlocking

September 18th, 2012

The practice of locking phones bought under a contract is pretty rubbish. However, my experience has been that towards the end of your contract, when you’ve finished paying off the phone subsidy, carriers unlock your phone, that you now fully own.

However, Three UK are refusing to unlock my iPhone, which has just reached the end of its contract, without me paying a £15.32 administration fee. An admin fee they want me to pay, for them to undo the shitty thing they did to my phone.

I’ve tried escalating the issue, but even the complaints department won’t budge on this policy. I’m not sure what I can do next. I’m tied to Three unless I pay the fee.

I’ve sent the following email to David Dyson, Three CEO (I had to guess his email address), but don’t expect that to reach him. Worth a punt.

Hi David

I’ve been a happy Three customer over the last two years. Now that my current contract has expired, I’m planning to buy a new phone, and start a new contract, hopefully with Three again.

However, I’m preparing my old phone, which is now completely out of contract, and therefore fully paid for, but your customer services and complaints team refuse to get me the unlocking code without charging an admin fee of £15.32.

This fee is completely unfair. I’ve paid for the phone outright now that the contract has expired.Please can you have a look at your policies around handset unlocking charges. I understand that phone locking is considered necessary when the handset price is subsidised by the contract, but once the contract has been paid for I should be released from any obligation, and given the freedom to use the handset as I like, including on any network.

I have a case number for my complaint: [redacted] My current handset is an iPhone 4, bought from 3 with a contract 2 years ago.

All the best


Update: Three’s executive office called me, but they won’t budge on the unlocking admin fee. They insist charges to unlock are standard practice, but it hasn’t been my experience:

  • O2 UK – no charge, even during the contract
  • Vodafone UK – no charge for contract phones
  • Three Ireland – No charge once you’ve completed the contract

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