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Verizon asks the FCC to let it lock new smartphones for 60 days

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To prevent identity theft and fraud

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Photo: Chris Welch / The Verge

Verizon is asking the Federal Communications Commission to let it keep new smartphones locked to its network for 60 days, as part of an initiative to prevent identity theft and fraud. After the 60-day period, the phones would unlock automatically, the telecom says in a note published to its website and authored by Ronan Dunne, Verizon’s executive vice president. Verizon says it should have the authority to do this under the so-called “C-block rules” put in place following the FCC’s 2008 wireless spectrum auction.

“We believe this temporary lock on new phones will protect our customers by limiting the incentive for identity theft. At the same time, a temporary lock will have virtually no impact on our legitimate customers’ ability to use their devices,” Dunne writes. “Almost none of our customers switch to another carrier within the first 60 days. Even with this limited fraud safety check, Verizon will still have the most consumer-friendly unlocking policy in the industry. All of our main competitors lock their customers’ new devices for a period of time and require that they are fully paid off before unlocking.”

Verizon signaled last year that it was going to put an unlocking plan into place that would better prevent against fraud, and the telecom is still the industry leader among the big four in the US when it comes to letting consumers buy phones unlocked from the get-go. But it appears it needs the FCC’s go-ahead, which shouldn’t be a problem considering FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been both carrier-friendly in the past and a staunch opponent of net neutrality protections that Verizon and other telecoms have publicly fought against.

That said, Verizon is just putting itself in line with the rest of the industry here. AT&T already requires your phone be activated for 60 days for you to unlock it, and the company even requires you to wait two weeks to unlock your old phone if you’re upgrading to a new one. T-Mobile requires you wait 40 days, and also limits users to two unlocks per year per line. Sprint has a 50-day limit, and only unlocks devices from the onset if the phones are prepaid.