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Congress passes legislation legalizing cell phone unlocking

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Friday passed [bill status summary] a bill [text, PDF] that would make it legal for individuals to open the digital locks on their cellphones. The process, known as unlocking or jailbreaking, is currently illegal [text, PDF], punishable by fines of up to $500,000 and five years in jail for unlocking cellphones without the authorization of wireless carriers. The bill, known as the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, was passed [press release] by the Senate [official website] earlier this month. President Barack Obama [official website] has vowed to sign the legislation into law. Advocates of the bill argue that the bill would benefit consumers by allowing lower income individuals to buy used cell phones more easily and lower prices through increased competition.

Legislation concerning consumer protections have been passed in various countries, particularly concerning the banking industry after the 2008 financial collapse. In April the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) [official website] ordered [JURIST report] Bank of America [corporate website] to pay $727 million for its illegal credit card practices. The CFPB asserts that Bank of America used deceptive marketing and unfair billing practices [CFPB press release] in violation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act [text]. Google has also been criticized [JURIST report] for its privacy and marketing policies.

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