Press Releases

House Judiciary Members Introduce Legislation to Restore Consumers’ Ability to Unlock Cell Phones

Washington, DC, March 15, 2013
Tags: Copyright

Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), along with Representative Howard Coble (R-N.C.), chairman of the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee and Representative Mel Watt (D-N.C.), ranking member of the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee, announced the introduction of legislation to restore consumers’ ability to unlock their mobile phones,  in order to switch from one wireless carrier to another.  This bill also directs the U.S. Copyright Office to determine whether similar treatment should be given to other wireless devices.

“This bipartisan legislation is focused on protecting consumer choice,” said Chairman Goodlatte.  “By restoring the cell phone exemption, the power is put back in the hands of the consumer.”

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (H.R. 1123) restores the exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that permits consumers, once they have fulfilled their contractual obligation, to unlock their cell phones without the approval of their wireless provider.   The DMCA rulemaking was announced in October and continued the exemption for cell phones purchased on or before January 26, 2013.  The exemption was allowed to expire for cell phones purchased after that date.

“Providing consumers with the flexibility to use their purchased cell phones on another network at the expiration of their contract with their initial provider enhances consumer choice and competition in this market.  As we move forward, we must ensure that unlocked phones remain affordable and that consumer choice does not come at too high a price,” said Ranking Member Conyers.

“Allowing cell phones to be unlocked is completely logical, and I will support efforts along those lines.” said Subcommittee Chairman Coble.

“I am pleased to cosponsor legislation designed to reflect the desire of the public to unlock their cell phones in order to switch providers at the expiration of their contract without the need to purchase a new phone.  The quality of the DMCA process depends upon the quality of the record.  Future participants in the process should build an adequate record upon which an exemption may be based,” Subcommittee Ranking Member Watt said.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate earlier this week.