Can't carrier unlock my own phone

I was just reading a post about someone who managed to unlock their iPhone purchased on eBay with a Sprint carrier lock on it.  Somehow they got Sprint support to do it, but in my case no dice.  And I'm fairly technical, with about 20 hours of my time trying to fix this nightmare of an issue.

You see, when I signed up with Ting after buying a new iPhone 7 from Best Buy (on Ting 2 years bought phone with cash) I got on the Sprint network via Ting MVNO procedures - BUT - now that I want to change carriers I am PERMANENTLY stuck with Ting/Sprint since neither party can or will remove the carrier lock policy.  Apple refuses to work with me as well, even though their servers maintain the locking database (which they tried to deny on my last of several calls to them).

Should this not be illegal?  Its like I'M A CRIMINAL the way I'm being treated despite my ability to prove ownership.  If anybody out there in the MVNO universe who has solved this problem I'd be forever in your debt!  Hint: MVNO's don't provision account records into carriers systems, so they won't unlock you without an account.  My last hope it to try to get a short term Sprint contract then run like hell, but I've read they will sometimes turn you away, money is no good apparently.  This is madness on every level conceivable.  No accountability, no escalation, no solution in sight.

What evil demonic customer hating product people ever dreamed this up, and how do they continue to get away with it?  Oh MONOPOLY, that's right.. and regulation is even (see: Net Neutrality).  Anybody up for a class action party??

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7 comments
  • Hi Erik,

     I believe what you are dealing with is the US Reseller Flex Policy. This is something that I've seen come up a couple times since I started working here and it comes from Best Buy selling phones that lock to the first network of the SIM that is put into the phone. There was an in-depth discussion on why this is from a Reddit post awhile back that I'm going to link you to here since it goes into better detail with what is happening. 

     There are only two options to get this fixed one is through Best Buy and the other is through Apple. If you don't have the receipt still for the purchase it may be harder for Best Buy to switch out the phone for you so I might suggest talking to Apple again. You may need a Tier 2 technician (who understands this Best Buy policy and is willing to help) to get the unlock removed. I've seen a couple people have their phones unlocked this way but for the majority what they did was return the phone to Best Buy because it was sold under the understanding that it was universally unlocked like the versions that are sold directly from Apple

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  • Thanks Bryce that’s helpful.

     
    I do have my receipt but have already tried Best Buy and they punted to Sprint.  My phone was absolutely unlocked when I bought it and I’ve used the phone on a GSM network in India with a different SIM and it worked fine.  That carrier apparently doesn’t phone home to Apple thus the carrier policy is not enforced.
     
    Best Buy sez they don’t have the unlock tool and only the carrier can unlock the phone.  What is not clear is how things may have worked differently had I bought a phone directly from say Apple Store.  Once you stick the SIM in the phone and activate it, the carrier lock is asserted, so Flex Policy or no I think I’d be in the same boat, given I activated via Ting.
     
    The problem I have with Sprint who says they are willing to unlock the phone, is they have NO ACCOUNT RECORD of me in their system.  Ting buys Sprint service WHOLESALE, so somehow you can get me on their network, but they only see my IMEI, they don’t see my phone # or have any information about me.  Without it there is no unlock.  There are many MVNO’s out there, we can’t all be locked forever to the carrier we activate with via a given MVNO right?  
     
    My only hope forward may be for me to try to sign with Sprint directly so I can get an account provisioned for subsequent unlock.  Does that make sense and what else will they ask for e.g. release IMEI?  Anybody who claims to have this fixed (there are only a few) seem to have been lucky, there’s no specific direct series of actions that were repeatable and reportable that I can discern.
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  • If Best Buy is pushing back like that I would try Apple one more time before going through the Sprint route. I don't know if Sprint are going to have any requirements that need to be met before they will unlock the phone so you may want to be on the lookout for that as well. What I might suggest is reaching out to some users on the Sprint Reddit page. I find they are pretty helpful over there and they may be able to provide extra information on how their system works so that you can get through this route as smoothly as possible. 

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  • Contact the FCC. Having porting issues now from Spectrum to Ting and the FCC complaint I filed has helped immensely!

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  • Thanks for the suggestion Ellen!  I filed a complaint this morning, will remain hopeful it will have a positive effect.  Hopefully, Federal agencies have some teeth left in this day and age..

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  • Erik, 

    I'd like to suggest that while your FCC complaint is pending (did they charge you for that?), you reach back out to Apple at 1-800-MY-IPHONE and use the words "reseller flex policy" to get someone who knows what the issue is. In the handful of cases I've seen regarding this, usually it's a Tier 2 Apple technician who steps in, sees you bought the phone from Best Buy (and that it should be unlocked) and repairs the activation policy to unlock your phone. 

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  • yes

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