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O2 won't unlock 'exclusive' phones, such as the Palm Pre, ever - unless you resort to the small claims court, in which case they'll unlock the handset and pay you off to boot.

Following an 18-month contract O2 customer Rob Jonson wanted his Palm Pre unlocked to work with another operator, but O2 has a policy of never, ever, unlocking exclusive handsets, which includes the Palm Pre. So Mr Jonson took them to the small claims court and over five months negotiated to have his phone unlocked and his court costs paid, with a bonus of £150 for the bother.

Not that Mr Jonson has any legal experience, or fought an aggressive battle with the operator - as his detailed blog posting shows he simply filed a complaint online with Small Claims, and dealt with O2 in a polite and determined way until the operator agreed to his terms.

O2 didn't back down immediately; the operator filed a defence with the court, but capitulated at the last minute and agreed to the suggested terms.

Those terms included the unlocking of the handset, £35 in court costs and £150 for Jonson's trouble. It also included the removal of a "standard confidentiality clause" the operator had tried to slip into the agreement that wrapped up the case.

We asked O2 if the case had altered its position on unlocking, but an O2 spokesperson told us "we unlocked Mr Jonson’s Palm Pre in light of his specific circumstances" and that "we do not sim unlock handsets such as those that are exclusive to O2".

And that is what it says on the O2 website, if you search hard enough. But having given in once it's hard to understand how the operator can avoid giving in again, and we look forward to seeing how the next case develops. ®

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