The new head of US communications watchdog, the FCC, penned an open letter to an operator association in the country, arguing that plans related to unlocking customer handsets are “a hollow shell” unless one more key criteria is adopted.

Tom Wheeler (pictured) wrote to CTIA with regard to customers’ rights to unlock devices once contracts are fulfilled, arguing that “it is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate”.

The FCC said that it and the CTIA are in accord on four issues: a “clear, concise and readily accessible” policy on device unlocking; a pledge to unlock devices when service contract, instalment plans, or early termination fees are settled; processing of applications or explanations of denial within two business days; and unlocking of devices for military personnel on deployment.

However, the industry body is not supporting one more: a move to “affirmatively notify customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking and/or automatically unlock devices when eligible, without an additional fee”.

“Absent the consumer’s right to be informed about unlocking eligibility, any voluntary programme would be a hollow shell,” Wheeler argued.