Judiciary Committee Passes Leahy’s Bipartisan Cellphone Unlocking Bill That Improves Consumer Choice

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 10, 2014) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday unanimously approved bipartisan legislation authored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would restore the ability of consumers to more easily transfer their cell phones to other wireless carriers.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act would reinstate a 2010 rulemaking by the Librarian of Congress so that consumers can transfer, or “unlock,” their cell phones without running afoul of copyright laws. Leahy and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) first partnered on the issue last year, and their modified bill approved by the Judiciary Committee on Thursday puts the focus back on individual consumers.

“Consumers should be able to use their existing cell phones when they move their service to a new wireless provider.  I have worked for months with Ranking Member Grassley, Chairman Goodlatte and House members, consumer advocates and wireless providers to ensure we enact common sense legislation that puts consumers first by allowing them to ‘unlock’ their cell phones,” Leahy said. “With today’s strong bipartisan vote in the Judiciary Committee, I hope the full Senate can soon take up this important legislation that supports consumer rights.” 

The modified bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday promotes competition and improves consumer choice. It also directs the Librarian of Congress to consider whether other wireless devices, like tablets, should be eligible for unlocking.  The House passed a similar cellphone unlocking bill in February. Leahy has been coordinating with Goodlatte, his counterpart in the House, to ensure that Congress can pass a commonsense bill this year.

An outline of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act can be found here, and text of legislation can be found online.

Results and a webcast of Thursday’s executive business meeting can be found online

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