Bipartisan Senate Bill to Allow Customers to Legally Unlock Their Smartphones

Bipartisan Senate Bill to Allow Customers to Legally Unlock Their Smartphones

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have introduced legislation to allow users to legally unlock their phones once their contract has been fulfilled.

Unlocked iPhone 4


The Democrat from Minnesota announced on Tuesday that the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” would restore an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and allow users to unlock their cell phone once their contract expires.

Joining Franken in the bipartisan effort were Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Defining the bill as a “narrow and common sense proposal,” the senators said they believe it will promote competition and improve choices for customers.

The bill was introduced as a countermeasure to the Library of Congress ruling in late 2012 that determined cell phone unlocking would be removed as a legal exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Unauthorized unlocking of all newly purchased phones became illegal as of Jan. 26, 2013.

“Right now, folks who decide to change cellphone carriers are frequently forced to buy a new phone or risk the possibility of criminal penalties, and that’s just not fair for consumers,” Franken said. “This bipartisan legislation will quickly allow consumers to unlock their current phones instead of having to purchase a new one. I support this commonsense solution to save consumers money.”

The Obama administration came out in favor of legalizing the unlocking of cell phones and tablets last week. The endorsement was given as a response to the White House petition created by Sina Khanifar, which to date has received nearly 115,000 signatures.

A similar bipartisan bill is also expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives this week.