AT&T Unlocking Law Response: Customer Complaints And Corporate Apologies

As the laws in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 banning the unlocking and jailbreaking of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices face greater pressure from vocal opponents, the law’s supporters are losing allies.

At the end of last week, Congress began consideration of a third bill introduced to reshape the problematic portions of the DMCA, or at least the portions where the problems are specifically about unlocking and jailbreaking.

On the same day, AT&T released a statement explaining the U.S.’s largest phone provider’s official corporate policy when it comes to the controversial unlocking process.

“I want to be completely clear that AT&T’s policy is to unlock our customers’ devices if they’ve met the terms of their service agreements and we have the unlock code,” Joan Marsh, AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory policy, said. “It’s a straightforward policy, and we aim to make the unlocking process as easy as possible.”

Though many of the readers begged to differ.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of this policy.” Alleged AT&T user Conan Kudo commented on the blog post. “You guys refused to unlock my Captivate for 13 months, and you refused it for my Galaxy S III even now, saying I must wait 18 months.

“When I bought my iPhone 5 at full retail, it took me three weeks to get you guys to do it, because you required faxing at specific moments, and all sorts of weird stuff. You guys refused to unlock my iPhone 4 until after my contract term expired, and even then, it took four tries to get someone who actually didn’t tell me that you can’t unlock it.

“I don’t know what’s going on there, but its obvious you aren’t following that policy you describe.”

A customer service representative replied later in the same comments, to address Kudo’s concerns.

“Oh no Conan Kudo! I would like to look further into this regarding your unlock requests and experience,” Phillisa, AT&T Social Media Manager, said. “Please email the details to with the number associated with your account and your contact number. Please also include your name in the subject line. I’m here Monday – Friday, 7:30 am – 4:30 pm CST and will be happy to assist you. Thank you.”

But that did little to stop the torrent of customers whose reactions ranged from confusion to contempt.

“The title of this blog is fantasy at best and deceptive at worst. Why? Because it simply isn’t true,” Commenter Adam Pav wrote. “I picked up at ATT branded phone last year at a Microsoft retail store. Paid full price for the device as it was bought off contract, with no subsidy.

“ATT refused to provide an unlock code for said device, with the CS agent telling me I had to wait two years before I could get a code. Didn’t matter that I didn’t have a contract on the device.

“If you buy something new, ATT isn’t going to unlock it for you.”

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