Millions of consumers use pre-paid cellphones through TracFone and its brands. For several years, TracFone sold only phones locked to its service, denying customers the opportunity to use their phone for service with another provider.

As a result of negotiations between TracFone and the Federal Communications Commission, millions of customers are now able to use their TracFone phone on other networks if they choose to change providers. Also, TracFone has remedies in place for eligible consumers who purchased "locked" cell phones: Refunds, credits or trade-ins allow them the freedom of choice.

The FCC has made it a goal to increase the consumers' freedom to move their phones to other carriers' networks if they want to. Such policies promote competition and protect consumers. For more information on unlocked cellular phones, visit: https://www.fcc.gov/device-unlocking-faq

Tracfone and its brands

TracFone is an international wireless phone service provider that sells service under several different brand names. This settlement covers all of TracFone's brands, including, but not limited to TracFone, NET10 Wireless (related to Family Dollar stores), Total Wireless, Straight Talk, SafeLink Wireless, Telcel América, Simple Mobile and Page Plus Cellular.

Consumers with locked handsets

TracFone agreed to compensate consumers who have purchased locked handsets for TracFone service. Approximately 8 million TracFone customers who purchased locked phones from TracFone may be eligible for compensation, with an average benefit of $10 per handset.

Customers of TracFone or any of its brands are eligible for compensation if they have been a customer of any of TracFone's brands for a year or more and launched service by a certain date (see timing requirements below), if they request handset unlocking from the company, and if their phone is working and has not been reported to be associated with crime or fraud. Customers who are not eligible today may become eligible over time.

Customers can contact the company at www.tfwunlockpolicy.com or by calling TracFone at 1-888-442-5102 to check eligibility and, if eligible, receive one of the following in exchange for their locked handset:

  • A new unlocked handset for Lifeline customers.
  • Credit toward a handset upgrade.
  • A partial cash refund.

Consumer eligibility

In order to obtain compensation under the settlement, consumers must:

  • Be a customer of TracFone (including its brands).
  • Request handset unlocking from TracFone.
  • Use the locked device with TracFone's service for at least 12 months and redeem cards for airtime usage on the TracFone network for at least 12 months.
  • Possess a TracFone handset in working condition that has not been reported stolen, lost or associated with fraud, and not have their telephone number recycled or ported.
  • Meet certain timing requirements. For non-Lifeline customers, the handset must have been launched on TracFone's service after February 11, 2014, or activated with TracFone's service after February 11, 2015. For Lifeline customers, only the original approved customer is eligible and the customer must have activated on TracFone's service after February 11, 2014.
  • Customers in the military who are actively deployed do not need to meet the service activation and air card redemption eligibility requirements.
  • Customers are eligible for the program only once every twelve months.

Contact the FCC for further information

You can also email the FCC for further information at: tracfoneunlocking@fcc.gov. Any inquiries received by the FCC at this email address will likely be forwarded to TracFone for resolution.

 

File a Complaint with the FCC

 

Visit our Consumer Complaint Center at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov to file a complaint or tell us your story.

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Consumer Help Center

Learn about consumer issues - visit the FCC's Consumer Help Center at www.fcc.gov/consumers.

 

Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Tuesday, October 25, 2016