Cell phones


1. Unlocking your phone

After you have fully paid for your cell phone (which may include finishing your service textingcontract), you have the right to “unlock” your phone in order to switch carriers.1Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act of 2014

One thing to note is that because phones are usually manufactured for use with only one type of network, GSM or CDMA, unlocking your phone only allows you to switch to a different carrier that uses the same network. For example, you could switch between Verizon and Sprint (which both use CDMA) or between T-Mobile and AT&T (which both use GSM).

2. Privacy

  • Law enforcement may not search the contents of your cellphone without getting a warrant, even if you are arrested.2Riley v CA (2014); U.S. Const., 4th amendment

NOTE: In general, when police want to search a person or their stuff, they must convince a judge that they will find evidence of a crime in the search, and if the judge agrees, he/she will issue a warrant. But when police arrest a suspect, they have the right to search that person, even without a warrant to do so. However, this does NOT extend to the content of cellphones.

  • Your employer may NOT ask for your phone’s password (unless the employer provided it), or ask you to scroll through your phone’s contents while he/she watches.3Cal. Labor Code Sec 980

3. Jamming your signal

Companies or individuals may not block or interfere with your cell phone signal, personal Wi-Fi hotspot, Wi-Fi network, or GPS.4Communications Act, Section 333; as interpreted by Federal Communications Commission

4. “Cramming”

Cell phone companies may not add charges to your bill from outside companies without your clear consent, must clearly identify these charges as from outside companies, and must give you the option to block the charges. This practice is called “cramming.”

See more on consumer rights.


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