Franken, members of Senate Judiciary Committee introduce legislation to restore consumer choice

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Washington, D.C. — U.S Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation on Monday (March 11) that would restore the ability of consumers to more easily transfer their cell phones to other wireless carriers.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act would restore an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), permitting consumers to “unlock” their cell phones when their contract expires.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) are expected to introduce similar, bipartisan legislation this week. The Senate bill was introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and cosponsored by Sen. Franken, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

The senators said this narrow and common sense proposal promotes competition in the marketplace, ultimately improving consumer choice.

“Right now, folks who decide to change cellphone carriers are frequently forced to buy a new phone or risk the possibility of criminal penalties, and that’s just not fair for consumers,” Franken said. “This bipartisan legislation will quickly allow consumers to unlock their current phones instead of having to purchase a new one. I support this commonsense solution to save consumers money.”

“This straightforward restoring bill is about promoting consumer rights,” Leahy said.  “When consumers finish the terms of their contract, they should be able to keep their phones and make their own decision about which wireless provider to use.”

“As we become a more mobile society, we’re choosing smart phones and other wireless devices as our prime mode of communications.  It’s the right thing to empower people with the freedom to use the carrier of their choice after complying with their original terms of service,” Grassley said.

Hatch said, “It just makes sense that cell phone users should be able to do what they want with their phones after satisfying their initial service contract.  This bill reinstates that ability, while also ensuring that copyrights are not violated.”

Lee said, “Consistent with their contracts, consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones and switch carriers. This bipartisan bill provides for that freedom and helps encourage competition among wireless services as the surest way to increase consumer welfare.”


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