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Canada Just Banned Smartphone Unlocking Fees

As of Dec. 1, all newly purchased devices must be unlocked.
Image: Garry Knight/Flickr

Canadians who want a phone that's not locked to a certain carrier's network often have to scroll through eBay or (gasp) visit a brick-and-mortar electronics store—either that, or pay a $50 fee to the carrier to have the device unlocked.

Now, the age of locked-to-carrier phones is ending in Canada: if you buy your phone, you'll be able to use it wherever you want, full stop.

As of Dec. 1, carriers can no longer charge an "unlocking fee" to unlock your phone. Moreover, all newly purchased devices must be unlocked from the get-go, according to new regulations from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the federal telecommunications regulator, which came out on Thursday. Last year, telecoms made more than $37 million charging people to unlock their devices, according to a CBC report.


Almost nothing unites Canadians like their shared frustration with the country's "big three" telecom companies, which dominate the market, so most people were understandably thrilled by the ruling.

"The CRTC's changes are welcome and will help to clarify for Canadians what is required of cell phone providers, and protect them from abusive behaviour by telecom companies," wrote OpenMedia, a nonprofit that tackles Internet issues, in a statement.

The CRTC's decision to ban unlocking fees came after a review of its 2013 Wireless Code, which was created to help consumers deal with their wireless providers.

As a part of yesterday's decision, the CRTC also decided that only the holder of the account can be asked if they consent to additional data and roaming charges in a family-shared cellphone plan. Right now, your provider will send you a text if you go over $50 worth of data—all you have to do is respond "yes", and the cap will be lifted. Until now, even minors on a shared plan could do this, potentially racking up unwanted data charges.

Read More: Here's How to Make Canadian Phone Bills Cheaper

If you're thinking of upgrading to a new device, you might want to wait until after December 1—it'll most definitely be worth it to skip a hefty unlocking fee.

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