ISRI says phone unlocking bill hurts industry

ISRI says phone unlocking bill hurts industry

By Bobby Elliott, E-Scrap News

Feb. 28, 2014

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) has come out against a revised version of phone unlocking legislation the group says could imperil U.S. recyclers and refurbishers.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, which passed by a House vote of 295 to 114 on Tuesday, lost ISRI's support due to a last-minute change to the measure, which now explicitly prohibits the unlocking of cellphones "for the purpose of bulk resale."

"By not allowing unlocking phones in bulk, recyclers and refurbishers are placed in a competitive disadvantage and may be forced to outsource the repair jobs to facilities outside of the U.S. where unlocking is legal," Robin Wiener, ISRI's president, said in a press release.

The bill originally inferred – to ISRI and others – that U.S. recyclers and refurbishers would be permitted to purchase used phones and unlock them in bulk, enabling consumers from around the world to purchase the devices and choose from a host of service providers. In response, ISRI championed the legislation submitted by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, as a reasonable response to ongoing debate surrounding unlocking policies in the U.S.

The bill now moves to the Senate, and ISRI is requesting lawmakers in that chamber consider reworking the bill to permit the mass unlockings.

"It is our hope that the Senate addresses this oversight when it takes up the legislation," Wiener stated in the release.

Jot Carpenter, vice president of CTIA, a major wireless trade group, defended the current wording of the bill. "The legislation should retain the prohibition on bulk unlocking," Carpenter said. "Except for those engaged in large-scale subsidy arbitrage or fencing stolen devices, this should not be controversial."

Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, an online electronics repair resource, told E-Scrap News such a reading was misguided. "Conflating electronics recyclers with common criminals is unfair and shows policymakers' ignorance about the reuse industry," Wiens stated.

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