Consumers who purchase handsets (or other terminal equipment) together with their Electronic Communications Service (ECS) will have specific provisions in their contract relating to this.  Service providers are required to set out any restrictions on the use of terminal equipment supplied and, in respect of termination of the contract, any conditions regarding cost recovery of the terminal equipment.  This means that consumer contracts must set out these details in particular if restrictions or termination charges apply.

Typically after the minimum contract term of 12, 18, or 24 months any restriction on the terminal equipment will be removed, free of charge, when requested by the consumer, but consumers should consult their terms and conditions for the terms applicable to them including any cost payable for terminal equipment if the contract is terminated before the minimum term.

Typically handsets supplied as part of an ECS contract are restricted for use on the network that the service is for. When the cost of the handset has been recovered by the service provider, usually by the end of the minimum term, the service provider will provide the customer with the necessary “unlock” code which the consumer must use to allow the handset to be used on other networks.  The unlock code is obtained by your service provider from the handset manufacturer and depending on the manufacturer this can take a number of days.

ComReg advises consumers as follows:

Consult your contract to get the specific contractual terms in place regarding your handset; in particular the specific details about any restriction to a particular network and any terms regarding payment (cost recovery) of the handset so that the restriction can be removed before or after the minimum term.

Be aware of when your minimum term ends and in particular when any network restriction on your handset ends. To avoid any delays in being able to use your handset – if you decide to change electronic service provider in the future – request your unlock code in good time so that you will have it to hand if you do decide to switch.

Use ComReg’s compare tool to find out the best deal for your usage needs and handset preferences available at www.comreg.ie/compare.  ComReg’s interactive website shows the total cost of offers including those which include handsets, over the minimum contract term.  Consumers can also use the website to select their preferred handset and compare offers that have a higher upfront cost for the handset and a lower monthly subscription against those that have a lower upfront cost and higher monthly subscription.