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Hyer Fights for Cell phone users

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THUNDER BAY, ON -–  June 17, 2010  -----   Parliament needs to end Bruce Hyer  repressive cellular phone network locks in order to promote consumer choice and to encourage much-needed competition in Canada’s cell phone market, says New Democrat Small Business Critic Bruce Hyer.  The MP tabled the Cell Phone Freedom Act Thursday to ban “network locks” or “SIM locks” on new mobile phones sold outside of contract.

Because of an effective lack of competition in the Canadian marketplace, big wireless providers are not motivated to unlock phones, unlike carriers in most other countries.

 “Mobile phone customers should have the freedom to choose whether they want to be locked into a company’s cell network or not.” Hyer said. “Right now, most consumers don’t even know they can’t switch to another network without throwing out their phone and buying a new one, or trying to unlock their handset at some expensive aftermarket shop. Many resort to trying to download complicated instructions off the internet, but these can result in dead phones if used improperly.”

 “When a consumer’s contract ends; they have in effect paid for their handset,” said New Democrat Consumer Protection critic Glenn Thibeault. “Once the contract is over, the consumer’s old service provider shouldn’t be able to dictate which service provider is used next. The handset belongs to the consumer and as does the choice of service network.”

 Because of an effective lack of competition in the Canadian marketplace, big wireless providers are not motivated to unlock phones, unlike carriers in most other countries.

 “The Cell Phone Freedom Act mandates that consumers must be informed of the existence of any network lock on new phones they buy” Hyer said. “Moreover, consumers should be able to ask that their handsets be unlocked if they choose to pay full price for the phone, when buying it outright without a contract. And when a consumer ends a multi-year contract with a company, they should also be able to get their phone unlocked, free of charge. This legislation will ensure consumers have that freedom. Restrictive cell phone locks should no longer be used as a tool to restrict consumers from moving to more competitive providers and to artificially restrict competition.”

  “When we buy or lease a car, we would never tolerate the car company dictating that we can only fill up at a certain gas station. Why should the big phone companies get a free pass on similar behaviour?  It’s well-nigh anticompetitive.” added Hyer.

 A 2009 study by the Organization for Co-operation and Development found that Canada had amongst the highest prices for mobile phone calling amongst all OECD countries. Additionally, reports by wireless industry consultants the Seaboard Group found Canadian wireless penetration to be second last in the OECD, and implicated the relatively high Canadian prices in the suppression of demand for wireless services.

 A petition at the site www.DontLockMyFreedom.ca was launched to present the case for an end to confining network locks. Unlocking a mobile phone is usually a trivial matter for phone companies, and can often be done by providing customers a simple unlock code that can be typed into handsets.

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