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Win nixes lock-in practices of mobile devices in new bill

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Smartphone users while away time in Pasay City, 16 Jan 2018, but poor connection and unfavorable services from mobile telecommunications companies can diminish user experience values for these sophisticated gadgets. Senator Win Gatchalian has filed the “Network Freedom Act” that seeks to prohibit telcos from locking their mobile devices, whether sold as a unit or under a service contract, to their respective networks. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian has filed Senate Bill No. 1643, also known as the “Network Freedom Act”, a measure which prohibits mobile telecommunications companies from locking their mobile devices, whether sold as a unit or under a service contract, to their respective networks.

Typically, the mobile communications service contract between the service provider and the mobile user contains a “lock-in provision” which requires the latter to exclusively maintain a monthly postpaid subscription with that telco company on the device. Therefore, a Globe-locked phone cannot be used with a Smart SIM, and vice versa.

Gatchalian, who is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, stressed that network locking not only deprives mobile subscribers from easy movement to other networks, but also limits competition among industry players.

“Every mobile user should have the right to switch to other service providers that offer better deals. Unfortunately, the locking of devices prejudices this right. The Network Freedom Act will ensure that the consumer’s right to choose the best service available on the market is protected,” he said.

The senator pointed out that this bill is the perfect complement to another pro-consumer measure he has filed: Senate Bill No. 1636, the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act, which would allow mobile consumers to retain their phone number when switching to another service providers.

“The prohibition against phone locking will eliminate one of the everyday stumbling blocks to the effective implementation and realization of the desired impacts of mobile number portability instituted by the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act. The passage of these two bills would be a big win for mobile consumers because it would spark real competition within the telco sector and result in better service across-the-board,” he said.