Wireless Carriers Investigated on Allegations of Collusion

As if sneaky, unethical billing practices weren’t enough, you now have another reason to be suspicious of your wireless provider. The Justice Department just opened an anti-trust investigation to determine whether AT&T and Verizon colluded with a wireless-standards organization to make it more difficult for customers to switch to new phone carriers.

The issue at the heart of this investigation is eSIM technology. This technology allows users to remotely switch wireless providers without having to get a new SIM card. According to people familiar with the investigation, it is alleged that Verizon and AT&T colluded with G.S.M.A. to lock phones to a specific carrier even if they contained an eSIM card.

Fortunately for consumers, a device maker, identified by the insider as Apple, and another wireless company filed complaints with the Justice Department, triggering a formal investigation.

Not surprisingly, a Verizon spokesperson said this issue was “much ado about nothing,” but G.S.M.A confirmed that it did, in fact, develop an eSIM standard that would allow a carrier to lock a device to a specific network.

The Justice Department is trying to determine whether Verizon and AT&T tried to hurt competition and consumers. Preserving their supremacy in the mobile industry is always a priority for big carriers like Verizon and AT&T. Making it easy for consumers to switch providers is certainly not compatible with their strategy of total dominance of the industry. But for consumers, the inability to make a change puts them at a serious disadvantage.

In the last few years, consumers have gained more flexibility with their devices and carriers. But these victories are often hard-won. In 2013, the FCC pressured wireless carriers to let customers take their device off any network once they have paid for it. Not allowing consumers to easily switch their carriers limits their choices and works against the flexibility they have gained in the last few years.

Billshark’S mission is to fight for consumers and we hope that the Justice Department protects their right to have choices. In the meantime, send the Sharks after the big guys and let us take a bite out of your wireless bills!

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