Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced Thursday that starting Dec. 1, individuals and small businesses will be able to get their existing phones unlocked from their carriers, free of charge. All new devices purchased from that day onward would be available unlocked on purchase.

“The Wireless Code has helped make the wireless market more dynamic to the benefit of Canadians. While they appreciate the Code, they told us loudly and clearly that it could be more effective. We have listened to them. The changes and clarifications we are announcing today will give Canadians additional tools to make informed choices about their wireless services and take advantage of competitive offers in the marketplace” Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of CRTC, said in the press release Thursday.

Carriers typically lock their devices to disallow consumers from switching their networks. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said the change will make it easier for customers to switch providers, encourage competition and “could lead to lower prices. 

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The regulator also announced stricter approval measures for data usage on family and multiple sharing plans, which earlier used to result in high data charges for users. Customers who have signed up for a trial period with a carrier will also have better options — they can return their phones and cancel their contracts within 15 days of signing up but the device should be in near-new condition and the user should not have consumed the monthly usage limit.

Canadians currently need to pay $50 or more as smartphone unlocking fees if they want to switch carriers. CRTC decision comes after it received criticism over new wireless rules from customers.

CBC News quoted a disgruntled citizen in March: “That's called a 'Ransom Fee' or 'Hostage Fee' in any other business. It is unbelievable how the government allows these companies to extort money like this!"

The publication also reported at the time that Canadian telecom companies made a total of $37.7 million in 2016, just by charging users to unlock their phones.

According to Rose Behar of the tech site MobileSyrup, the fees also kept consumers forcibly tethered to their service providers. Waiving the unlocking fees will mean users will have the ease to switch carriers and the flexibility to change their smartphone plans.

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U.S. carriers allow their customers to get their devices unlocked since 2015, but the regulations might not remain customer-friendly for long, since the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wants to roll back net neutrality, which could make accessing the internet more expensive.

CRTC received 943,000 requests to unlock devices in 2016. Representatives from three big Canadian telecom companies — Rogers, Telus and BCE told CBC News they are still reviewing the decision while Shaw declined to comment Thursday.