Public Knowledge, Groups Urge GSMA to Preserve Consumer Ownership Rights of Mobile Devices

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Today, Public Knowledge joins Consumers Union and Center for Democracy & Technology in a letter urging the Global System Mobile Association (GSMA) to preserve consumers’ ownership and portability rights over their mobile devices.

According to media reports, the Department of Justice is investigating some phone carriers to determine if they are seeking to insert anti-competitive restrictions on consumers’ ability to transfer embedded SIM (eSIM) phones from one carrier to another. The groups request more information about the regulation of eSIM cards and ask GSMA to commit to ensuring that all users are able to port their devices across compatible networks.

The following can be attributed to the letter:

“Currently, most phones make use of a physical SIM card. SIM cards are integral to the functioning of cellular phones: they contain the subscriber information of individual phone users and identify the users to the network. Due in part to the high premium on space inside smartphones, companies have increasingly been moving to using embedded SIMs in their products. With an eSIM, the user is able to select multiple mobile networks without needing to physically change the SIM card, as we currently do.

“While we look forward to the prospect of additional benefits that eSIM technology can bring to consumers, we worry that the switch to embedded SIM cards could give carriers a new opportunity to erode consumers’ ownership rights over their devices and to block any unlocking of these devices.

“We have heard that the global cell phone carriers have pushed for a voluntary standard that would prevent users from wiping the phone, thus deleting the eSIM software, in order to take the phone to another carrier. Moreover, North American carriers are pushing to make this a mandatory policy for their region. We are concerned that this move would erode consumers’ ownership rights over their devices and further exacerbate the unequal bargaining power consumers have in the marketplace.”

You may view the full letter here.

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