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If you’re currently paying a lot for your mobile phone contract, it can be frustrating if you want to save money. You might be happy with your handset but if you want to switch to another provider, could you have to pay to unlock your phone?

Not any more, as all major mobile phone networks have agreed to a voluntary agreement which sees an end to unpopular unlocking charges. So what does this mean for you if you’re looking to get a better deal on your mobile?

What is ‘unlocking’?

For most modern smartphones, you can speak to your network provider if you’re looking to unlock your phone. This means you won’t have to keep it on that specific network anymore so if another provider is offering a cheaper deal, you’re free to switch. For older phones, you’re best getting a reputable high-street retailer to unlock your phone.

There’s nothing dodgy about unlocking your phone – it’s only unblocking that’s illegal. This is when a mobile network has blocked a phone from working but you pay a fee to get it working again.

The new rules

With most providers, unlocking your phone has always been free. But this isn’t the case with all networks – earlier this year, Virgin Mobile charged £15.32 if you wanted to unlock your phone so you could switch to another provider.

In last year’s Autumn Statement, the Government promised to crack down on costly unlocking charges. Some had thought that they were even going to introduce legislation to stop the fees. But now the major networks have come to a voluntary solution where they’ve all agreed to scrap unlocking charges.

So as long as you’re at the end of your initial minimum phone contract, you can unlock your phone for free and move to a better deal. If you’re still in your mobile phone contract or you’re a pay-as-you-go customer, you might still have to pay, depending on your network’s terms and conditions.

Looking to move to a new provider? Find out how to do this with our blog on switching your mobile phone network.

Getting the best deal

Once you’ve unlocked your phone, you’ll be free to search all of the mobile phone networks to get the cheapest deal that’s right for you. You can use price comparison websites to do this, like uSwitch and MoneySuperMarket.

But you also need to make sure you find the right mobile contract for you, so work out whether it’s more important to you to get unlimited minutes, calls or data allowance. After all, there’s no point in getting a great deal on your phone contract only to run out of data after the first week and have to pay a high fee for this. But if you only really use your mobile to call your partner or text your kids, you won’t need a deal with a high data allowance.

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