Bell and Rogers Say Phone Unlocking Requirement Has Increased Theft at Stores

The CRTC forced Canada’s wireless carriers to sell unlocked smartphones back in December 2017, and this new requirement has resulted in a surge of thefts at Bell and Rogers retail stores, claim both companies.

According to Bell’s filing made Tuesday to the CRTC—seen by iPhone in Canadathe company writes “we have seen an increase in illegal and fraudulent activated tied to the acquisition of unlocked devices,” which include armed robberies at stores where thieves are looking for new and unlocked devices. These unlocked phones, once stolen, can be easily re-sold in grey and black markets, says Bell.

A new policy to “protect the safety of our employees”, means Bell will start “stocking select devices locked and unlock them only upon activation.” Most likely these would be more expensive smartphones such as iPhones from Apple or even Samsung Galaxy models.

The filing to the CRTC made by Bell was a response to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) request for information related to device unlocking. Rogers responded with a similar filing detailing answers to questions made by the PIAC.

Bell says in its filing, from December 2017 to July 25, 2018, the company has unlocked 257,840 devices for postpaid and prepaid customers, across its wireless brands Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile, Bell MTS and Solo Mobile.

Unlike Rogers and Telus, Bell originally unlocked phones only for former customers, excluding second-hand devices. But after consumer backlash, Bell revised its policy in February of this year.

Rogers: 100% Increase in Missing Devices Since December 2017

As for Rogers–like Bell–the company said stocking unlocked devices in stores had resulted in increased theft, noting a “100%” increase in “the volume of missing devices in the months since the new unlocking rules came into effect over the same six month period in 2017,” in its filing (via The Wire Report).

Rogers said they limited device unlocking to five devices at a time for non-customers, to reduce pressure on customer service wait times.

“These callers request unlocks for multiple devices at one time, in many cases several dozen handsets. We conclude that such requests likely originate with device resellers who purchased or acquired refurbished or otherwise used handsets. These calls can be lengthy and cause unintentionally long wait times for Rogers customers,” said Rogers in its filing to the CRTC.

All incumbent wireless carriers told the CRTC they would only deny unlocking for stolen or blacklisted devices. Freedom Mobile only unlocks devices for current and former customers, while Videotron unlocks any device, regardless whether the owner was a customer or not in the past.

Have you had a device unlocked by your wireless carrier since December 2017? How was the process?

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