Operator unlock for the iPhone - UK

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by bumfilter, Nov 11, 2007.

  1. bumfilter macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2004
    Hi all,

    I'm not a solicitor so I may be way wrong but I've been doing some research regarding phone unlocking.

    Ofcom say that, if your phone is not under contract and your not paying off your contract you can request that your phone be unlocked. The operator can't charge any more that their standard unlock fee, it should take less than 25 days and you can keep your handset.

    When you buy an iPhone, you are under no obligation to enter into a contract with o2 or any other party, you own the phone outright.

    I can see no reason why o2 can deny a request to unlock the phone.

    Am I missing something? Does anyone have any thoughts on the issue?
  2. SayCheese macrumors 6502a

    Jun 14, 2007
    Thame, Oxfordshire, England
    I would like to think that this is true. However it will take someone with more legal knowledge than me to investigate this and fight it on our behalf.
  3. pjh macrumors regular


    Sep 25, 2007
    Airstrip 1
    I suspect we will only know the answer to this question if someone takes O2 to court, to force them to provide an unlock. The whole legal issue of unlocking seems to me a complete mess, roll on a test case.
  4. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Apr 2, 2006
    Shropshire, UK
    It's an interesting thought, but I don't think it'd work: The iPhone isn't usable at all until you have activated it and at that point you have entered into a contract with O2. This is clearly stated at point of sale and the product packaging so there is an implied contract at the point you buy the phone that you understand the requirement to activate the phone before you can use it and that that activation can only be to O2, which sort of ties you into O2 at the point you buy it (contracts don't have to be explicitly signed to be binding). Once activated, you are locked into the 18 month contract and O2 don't have to provide you with an unlock until the expiry of that contract.
  5. penx macrumors newbie

    May 23, 2005
    Sounds promising, do you have any links you can provide? Maybe it would be worth emailing Ofcom to ask them, with the iPhone being such a major launch over here they should be expecting to field a few iPhone-related questions. If Ofcom contact you saying you can do it then you'd have a very good case against O2 without going to court.
  6. sparkyms macrumors 65816

    Feb 22, 2007
    Southampton UK
    im still under the impression that the phone is somewhat subsidized, and im sure apple and o2 would argue that.

    That phone for 269 outright? that is a cheap phone on launch in comparision to an unlocked unbranded n95 which is 459 quid. It might be a case of having to wait 12 months before you can reasonably assume the subsidy has been made up and ask for an unlock.
  7. TonyHoyle macrumors 6502a

    Sep 14, 2007
    Manchester, UK
    Apple have said that the phone is not subsidised, and they sell it in the apple stores as a standalone device. They really can't force you to sign up with O2, only ask you nicely (and buying an iphone from apple cannot create a contract - between you and a third party - O2 - without something in writing. Your contract is 100% between you and the retailer as it is with all consumer goods).

    Unfortunately it takes ofcom months to move on things like this... so it'll happen slowly.

    btw. Someone could buy their way out of an O2 contract tommorrow (albeit at quite a cost) and be perfectly entitled to an unlock code.. . O2 must know how to provide them from day one.
  8. Supersonic macrumors regular

    May 24, 2006
    Easy way to find out is to fill our a small claims court form.

    As the value of the claim is relatively small, effectively 18 x £35 then this would be a FANTASTIC way to check the legal sitation, and if you lose, its just £50 or so lost to discover it..
  9. TonyHoyle macrumors 6502a

    Sep 14, 2007
    Manchester, UK
    It's not a legal thing it's a regulatory thing.. I'm not sure that the courts will be able to rule on it.

    btw. the small claims route would cost you £18*£35 + £50 or £680 just to prove a point (since you'd really want to be on solid ground - out of your O2 contract - to be sure of winning, and O2 may just give you the code anyway if you ask at that point, to avoid any legal precedent being set).
  10. samab macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2006
  11. bumfilter thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2004
    If that is the case, why do Ofcom bother carrying out research to determine if the operators are providing the "correct" information regarding unlocking a phone and porting a number?
  12. samab macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2006
    The old Oftel basically threw out all previous unlocking guidelines in 2002 --- in favour of "improved customer awareness". Ofcom has not revised those guidelines since. This is why they care about "correct information".


    Most people read the simplified faq of this policy --- and got a wrong impression of the policy. Here is the simplified faq.

    You can blame Ofcom for drafting such a poor policy paper as well. "Consumers can request unlocking codes" and "carriers usually charges" --- don't mean a single thing because consumers can ask for unlocking codes and carriers can always refuse. The words "can" and "may" means nothing in legal terms. It would be completely different if the policy is "consumers can request unlocking codes" cand "carriers SHALL give unlocking codes upon request".


    "Improved customer awareness" is a vaguely legal term which means that if the carrier put a big notice on the box (like how Hutchison 3 UK putting a big notice saying that this phone is permanently locked to 3 UK) --- it is all legal.

    Read the long version of the Ofcom policy (not the short and useless faq version) --- all those "examples" are just examples as of 2002. Ofcom could have revised their paper to include various other examples such as 3 UK gluing the sim card permanently onto the phone, 3 UK telling you that they permanently locked those phones --- and it would still be compliant to the current ofcom policy.
  13. emotion macrumors 68040


    Mar 29, 2004
    Manchester, UK
    There is a type of subsidization going on with the iPhone. It's not straightforward but look at the price of the Touch 8GB and what you get for just 70 quid more (dock, charger, camera, BT, better casing etc).
  14. samab macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2006
    Don't need to care about "handset subsidies" and buying a cell phone "outright" --- because Ofcom doesn't care about these things anyway.

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