Last year, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act passed successfully, reversing a congressional decision that previously banned people from unlocking their cellphones.
President Obama’s signage of this bill overturned the Copyright Office’s 2012 ruling against cellphone unlocking. With further review of this bill down the road, there is a chance the previous unlocking ban will be reinstated. But, until then, what does the freedom to unlock cellphones mean for electronics recyclers around the United States?
The advancement of this bill brings opportunities for both everyday consumers wanting network flexibility and recycling companies looking to increase their sales of refurbished devices. A cellphone that is still locked is rendered basically useless for any resellers. Beyond serving as a paperweight, a locked cellphone has no value.
Unlocking cellphones brings the freedom to use the device on various different mobile carriers, all up to the user’s choice. Through using a previously unlocked cellphone, the user is able to decide which mobile carrier best suits them in certain areas. This brings flexibility to users who may be traveling abroad or other destinations that may come with roaming fees from their typical providers.
With the passage of the unlocking act, ISRI (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries) is pushing for Congress to include an exemption for electronics recyclers to properly unlock cellphones in bulk. Eric Harris, ISRI representative, explained to Congress that unlocking cellphones in large numbers should be permitted towards recyclers as long as the devices are legally obtained. This proposition was carefully drafted to exclude any exemption towards electronics traffickers.
But why is this important for the industry as a whole? With increasing numbers of consumers purchasing refurbished phones instead of brand-new devices through a specific carrier, recyclers are seeing major growth in refurbished device sales. Rising sale numbers and new technology being released multiple times a year means more devices to unlock down the road.
The increase in sales of unlocked devices not only benefits recyclers, but facilitates more competition between mobile carriers. Instead of devices being preprogrammed to be compatible with one specific carrier, with proper practices during unlocking and date erasure, a device can be available on multiple different networks, small and large. This levels the playing field in some aspects for smaller, regional providers.
Reselling cellular devices brings opportunities for older technologies to stay relevant and is environmentally responsible. Instead of a device winding up in a landfill somewhere, unlocking cellphones brings opportunities for a second life.
HOBI International is a leading electronics recycling and refurbishing company. With the best practices in the trade, HOBI provides proper unlocking methods so that cellphones may be used to their best ability. Our MobileLife program brings the best opportunities for mobile asset management, including cellphone recycling and refurbishment.
With the passage of this bill and the trends moving towards unlocking all technological devices, it will be interesting to see the changes in copyright and information laws to follow in the coming months.