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House committee approves bill to legalize cellphone unlocking

July 31, 2013|By Chris O'Brien
  • Consumer advocates have been asking for new rules that would make it legal to unlock cellphones.
Consumer advocates have been asking for new rules that would make it legal… (PARK JI?HWAN / AFP/Getty…)

The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would legalize cellphone unlocking.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and would let consumers change their wireless provider while keeping the same phone.

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Goodlatte issued a statement saying his bill "protects consumer choice by allowing consumers flexibility when it comes to choosing a wireless carrier."

Sherwin Siy, vice president for legal affairs for Public Knowledge, a Washington consumer advocacy group, praised the vote in a statement. 

"We're glad to see that the committee continues to understand the need for consumers to unlock their own phones, and has in addition recognized the plain fact that many consumers will want assistance from family members or third party providers to do this unlocking," Siy said.

The unlocking bill now moves to a vote by the full House. If it ultimately becomes law, the bill would undo a previous decision by the Library of Congress that deemed it illegal to unlock a phone without the carrier's permission.

A similar unlocking bill has been introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).


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