After the FCC said that it planned to investigate a recent decision to make smartphone unlocking illegal, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said that she is introducing legislation this week that will re-enable consumers the ability to unlock their phones. Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and chairs the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee.
The announcement arrives after the White House responded to a WeThe People petition urging the Obama administration to reverse the unlocking decision, agreeing that consumers should have the right to use their phones on a different carrier once the contract is fulfilled. As it stands now, consumers face a $500,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison if found liable.
"Consumers should be free to choose the phone and service that best fits their needs and their budgets," Klobuchar said on Tuesday. "We need to make sure consumers are getting a fair deal and today’s announcement is a welcome step towards implementing consumer-friendly policies in the wireless industry. That’s why I’m introducing legislation this week to get rid of the ban on unlocking cell phones."
The controversy began in January when the Library of Congress allowed an exemption of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, to lapse. It actually expired in October 2012, but a grace period allowed the government to renew the exemption before the end of January. The exemption was added to the DMCA just after it went into effect so that unlocking smartphones wouldn't be illegal. Now consumers who purchase a smartphone after January 2013 cannot move the device to another carrier even if the contract is fulfilled.
"If you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network," said White House Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, & Privacy David Edelman. "It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs."
Senator Klobuchar said she will continue to work to advance commonsense measures to protect consumers and promote competition.