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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and wireless carriers have recently agreed to allow consumers to “unlock” or circumvent cellphones at the end of their service agreement and switch carriers using the same phone. The agreement will also apply to electronics refurbishers, therefore making it easier and more profitable to return cellphones.


“The agreement is a move in the right direction that will help recyclers extend the life of used cellphones,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “While we still must ensure that recyclers and refurbishers are allowed to unlock phones on their own, this agreement is good for the cellphone market and good for the environment.”


The deal between the FCC and phone companies will allow consumers to request the provider unlock a phone at the end of the service contract.


This move comes after the ISRI board of directors in October approved a new policy supporting the ability of recyclers and refurbishers to unlock technological devices such as cellphones, tablets and other electronics. Current copyright law makes the U.S. the only country where recyclers do not have the ability to unlock devices, standing in the way of advances in the reuse of technological devices and new innovations and competitive uses.


The issue has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (HR 1123), with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sponsoring companion legislation. The Obama Administration also supports the ability to unlock devices.

Published in the February 2014 Edition of American Recycler News