'Unlocking' a cell phone could mean you get 'locked up' - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

'Unlocking' a cell phone could mean you get 'locked up'

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Do you love your cell phone but you're fed up with your cell phone carrier? Well, you can no longer legally get your phone "unlocked" and move to a different company.

A new law, making it illegal to "unlock" a cell phone, which allows you to use it with any cell phone company, went into effect Saturday. Now you have to buy a new phone if yours is locked and you want to change companies. This is expected to cut down on negotiating power for better priced plans, decrease the number of people who can sell their old phones to other people and force those people to buy from a company instead.

"You should have the right to get your phone unlocked because it belongs to you," argues Parvez Hooda, the owner of Cell King store on Harwin Drive.

"Some people's credit is bad and can't afford contracts," says Houston resident Morris Broussard.

"It's a free country," adds Hooda, but you're no longer free to "unlock" your phone and take your business to a new cell company. "It's not a fair deal especially for people who use the phone, who travel abroad. They need to unlock the phones."

"Why have a phone that you can't use and you can only use it for one carrier only?," asks Houston resident Paul Rascol. The Library of Congress actually made the decision in October 2012 saying consumers "unlocking" their cell phones violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A copyright violation? Many are saying that only makes financial sense for cell phone companies and doesn't make sense for customers.

A petition to get rid of the law has generated more than 36,000 signatures on the whitehouse.gov petitions page. Here's the link: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-unlocking-cell-phones-legal/1g9KhZG7

Hooda has already signed it. He hopes you will too.

"You as a customer have the right to go ahead and sign the petition and say I want to get my phone unlocked. Why should I be restricted?"

Hooda estimates two out of every ten customers pays to have their cell phone unlocked. Critics of the new law say it will hurt small business owners such as Parvez Hooda.

If 100,000 people sign the petition, Congress will re-evaluate the new law. Find me on Facebook or Twitter to tell me what you think.

If your phone is already unlocked, you are safe and are grandfathered in. If you try now to get your phone unlocked, violators of the law may face a $2,500 fine. Businesses or individuals who make money off of illegally unlocking face a $500,000 fine plus jail time.

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