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Verizon Businesses Communications

Verizon is Locking Its Phones Down To Combat Theft (cnet.com) 130

Verizon is taking an extra step to protect its phones. CNET: The nation's largest wireless carrier said Monday that it would begin locking the phones it sells to consumers, which will prevent them from using a SIM card from another carrier. Initially, the phones will be unlocked as soon as a customer signs up and activates the service. But later in the spring, the company will begin the practice of keeping the phone locked for a period of time after the purchase -- in line with the rest of the industry. Verizon said it is doing this to deter criminals from stealing phones, often on route to retail stores or from the stores themselves.

Verizon is Locking Its Phones Down To Combat Theft

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  • Protecting Profit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @11:50AM (#56108619) Homepage
    This isn't about "protecting consumers". It's about killing off the secondary phone market. After you upgrade, you're stuck with a brick you can't sell. All those people who buy used phones will be forced to purchase new - or rooted ones.
    • If the "period of time after the purchase" is 3 to 12 months, as it is with T-Mobile, it won't affect someone who upgrades and sells on his old handset after one or two years.

      • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @11:57AM (#56108699)

        If the "period of time after the purchase" is 3 to 12 months, as it is with T-Mobile, it won't affect someone who upgrades and sells on his old handset after one or two years.

        This has everything to do with consumer lock-in and nothing to do with theft.

        And if they can't even secure hardware before it even hits store shelves, they have a much larger (and different) problem.

        • And if they can't even secure hardware before it even hits store shelves, they have a much larger (and different) problem.

          It is a problem for everyone that sells small valuable things. So who pays for "shrinkage"? You do. The cost of theft is built into the price of everything you buy.

          • It is a problem for everyone that sells small valuable things. So who pays for "shrinkage"? You do. The cost of theft is built into the price of everything you buy.

            Inapplicable in this case. They claim it is to stop the phone from being stolen AFTER you buy it. This is them locking down YOUR phone so you can't move onto another phone company without the added expense of buying another phone as they won't let the one you already OWN be used with another carrier.

          • And if they can't even secure hardware before it even hits store shelves, they have a much larger (and different) problem.

            It is a problem for everyone that sells small valuable things. So who pays for "shrinkage"? You do. The cost of theft is built into the price of everything you buy.

            We now have market full of $500+ smartphones loaded with features no one asked for. Within this particular industry, obscene greed and pointless feature creep has impacted the price FAR more than "shrinkage" ever will.

            • We now have market full of $500+ smartphones loaded with features no one asked for.

              There are plenty of phones without those features. If people didn't want the new features they wouldn't be paying $500 to get them. They would be buying $20 flip phones at Walmart. Or, if they want more than that, an iPhone refurb [walmart.com] for $150.

              • We now have market full of $500+ smartphones loaded with features no one asked for.

                There are plenty of phones without those features. If people didn't want the new features they wouldn't be paying $500 to get them...

                Apple does not sell computer hardware. They sell fashion statements. This is the only reason people pay $500+ to get them. Carrying around a specific logo is far more important than features.

          • "shrinkage"? BS.... Verizon had a net profit in 2016 of $13B off $125B revenue. Theft of a few smart phones is peanuts to the cost of building hundreds of towers and keeping global infrastructure running. This is customer lock in and killing off secondary (aka competitive) markets..
          • The cost of theft is built into the price of everything you buy. Then I hope people keep stealing them so that I get my money' worth. Otherwise, it'll be pure profit to the company.
        • This is a problem across the retail industry.
          Cell phones have the wonderful ability to be small, common, and expensive. So this makes it easy for employees to grab and resell a phone, if they are short on cash.
          By locking them, it makes it much harder for them to get away, as their customers will demand a refund or get beaten up. For giving them a non-functional product.

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert@@@slashdot...firenzee...com> on Monday February 12, 2018 @12:22PM (#56108893) Homepage

        It will affect someone who goes on holiday and wants to use a local sim to avoid extortionate roaming charges (or in some cases a lack of roaming agreement which prevents you from having any service at all)...

        It will affect someone who buys a subsidised phone but intends to use a different one with the service...

        A carrier lock is ineffective at deterring theft, blacklisting the IMEI of a stolen device (both on the networks themselves, and with apple/google etc) is far more effective.

        It's about locking customers in, nothing else.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tepples ( 727027 )

          IMEI blacklisting doesn't work when a thief uses a device on a carrier that has declined to import Verizon's IMEI blacklists, especially a foreign one.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anubis IV ( 1279820 )

          It will affect someone who goes on holiday and wants to use a local sim to avoid extortionate roaming charges

          My wife and I had no trouble getting her AT&T phone unlocked so that we could use a local SIM while traveling abroad last year. The article itself indicates that Verizon isn't removing the ability to unlock phones, even ones that haven't been fully paid off. All they're doing is locking the phones by default, matching the practice used by the other three carriers.

          I find myself in the odd position of defending a company I utterly loathe, but I honestly don't see the cause for concern here. Is their curre

          • by dryeo ( 100693 )

            Do they charge to unlock in the States? Here in Canada, they were charging up to $50 to unlock a paid for phone. The law changed last Nov and now they have to do it for free, so it's not much of a problem now.

            • I can't speak towards all carriers, but we didn't have to pay AT&T anything to unlock my wife's phone. So far as I know, they all stopped charging a fee for unlocking phones a few years back, provided the device is paid off in full (if the customer financed the purchase through the carrier).

        • It's pretty f'n simple: Don't buy your phone from a carrier. Anyone buying from Verizon directly is unfortunately ignorant, as it's likely the GSM radios don't even exist in those "specialty phones" for ATT | T-Mobile and non-CDMA (GSM) MVNO's.

    • by TFlan91 ( 2615727 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @11:54AM (#56108677)

      ^ This.

      I'm pretty sure insurance on deliveries covers any financial burden these supposed thieves are incurring.

      This is 100% squarely aimed at locking consumers into their eco-system, "in line with the rest of the industry" my ass. I haven't bought a locked phone in nearly a decade.

      • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

        The insurance on deliveries IS the financial burden.

        Of this reduces theft, it will reduce insurance cost.

        • by aitikin ( 909209 )

          Of this reduces theft, it will reduce insurance cost.

          Precisely. Where has it been shown that this would reduce theft?

          • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

            That's a separate issue. I have no idea if it would, but my assumption would be that they also track the IMEI numbers that they order, so the phone can't be taken somewhere else, and they won't activate it.

            That of course assumes the lock is effective.

          • Consider:

            Phone is locked to Verizon at factory.
            Verizon blacklists IMEI of stolen phones, once theft happens.
            Stolen phone cannot be used to talk to any other cellular network, and cannot talk to Verizon due to blacklisting. Ergo, stolen phone is useless.

            Thus, theft is reduced because stealing useless phones is itself useless unless you want to scrap them for spare parts. That wasn't a hard logical stream to follow.

            Further, carrier locking also does present certain anticompetitive and anti-consumer benefits

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            Precisely. Where has it been shown that this would reduce theft?

            There's a well-known scam where people steal someone's credit card number, make a purchase scheduled to arrive when that person is unlikely to be home, and steal the resulting box off the person's front porch. Shipping the phones locked and then unlocking them after the user has activated his or her service and paid at least a couple of bills would essentially eliminate that particular approach.

        • And preventing thefts improves delivery -- those sweet, sweet new whatever are hot commodities when they are fresh on the market, and getting insurance payouts aren't the same thing as actually selling them to consumers.

          Despite the bias against Verizon, this makes sense, is not obviously going to inconvenience users, and is a reasonably predictable response. If you want to blame someone for the thefts, try the shippers...

      • Re:Protecting Profit (Score:4, Informative)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @12:19PM (#56108873)

        I'm pretty sure insurance on deliveries covers any financial burden these supposed thieves are incurring.

        Insurance doesn't reduce costs. It just spreads the cost out, and then tacks on the administrative costs and profit for the insurance company, thus increasing the cost.

        Insurance on routine expenses like inventory shrinkage is foolish. In the long run, it costs more than it saves.

        • Re:Protecting Profit (Score:5, Informative)

          by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday February 12, 2018 @01:40PM (#56109555) Homepage

          Yes, not to go off into a tangent, but I think it's worth repeating/emphasizing: Insurance does not save money overall. That's the same whether it's health insurance, car insurance, or phone insurance. The average individual participating in insurance will pay more than they ever take out, and all of the people collectively will pay more than they ever take out. If that weren't the case, then insurance companies would be losing money, and wouldn't be feasible as a business.

          The purpose of insurance is to socialize risk. Everyone puts in a little money into a pool, and then if someone participating falls into an unlikely disastrous situation, they are permitted to cover their loss from that pooled money. No more money can be extracted than is put in, and some percentage always needs to be paid to someone to administer the whole thing.

          • That is also why insuring things with low value individually is stupid. The overhead makes ot as if that is all you are paying. E.g. for a phone or tv. Bevause the adminitrative cost of a contract will not be socialized.

            • True. But I think the more important application of the idea is that "health insurance" in the United States isn't really insurance. To some extent, yes, it does protect you against an unexpected catastrophic illness, but it also covers normal things, e.g. checkups, chronic illness, long term medications.

              When you have "insurance" that pays out all the time for regular predictable events, it's not insurance. Insurance socializes risk, but US health "insurance" socializes cost, which is a totally differen

    • Example. The Moto E4. From the Moto website is $130.The exact same phone is sold at WalMart for VZW prepaid for $40. Buy a $5 unlock code from EBay and you save $90+ and are free to go to any carrier.

    • Re:Protecting Profit (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Goetterdaemmerung ( 140496 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @12:23PM (#56108905)

      This isn't about "protecting consumers". It's about killing off the secondary phone market. After you upgrade, you're stuck with a brick you can't sell. All those people who buy used phones will be forced to purchase new - or rooted ones.

      They are going back to the bad old days of locked phones requiring permission to use another carrier in violation of their agreement with the FCC. Of course the FCC chairman is a Verizon stooge, so nothing will come of it.

      Verizon is taking an extra step to protect its phones.

      These are not Verizon's phones.

    • Well if the secondary market is what "Fell off the Truck" then yes they are protecting their profits.

      from TFS:
      "But later in the spring, the company will begin the practice of keeping the phone locked for a period of time after the purchase"

      It doesn't seem like it is permanent lock down, just long enough to get these devices sold to the customers. Now if this period of time is reasonable, it isn't about hindering the legit secondary market, where people had paid for the phones that Verizon had bought from th

    • Let's tone down the FUD a bit. I's not something you can't sell. It's just something that has less of a prospective resale market. You can still resell it to anyone also using Verizon - it's just a carrier lock, no different than any other carrier lock.

      Carrier locks are still bullshit and annoying, but really only a problem if you travel internationally, or want to sell the phone to someone on a different carrier.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        Or personally want to change carriers.

        • Sure, but it's a phone call, or even a web form to remove it unless you are on contract, in which case the carrier lock is more leverage for you to abide by your contract - either pay off early, or you don't get to use the phone on someone else's network.

          Sure, it's shit; but don't get a subsidised phone if you don't like subsidized terms.

    • That's exactly what TFA and summary stated. That the thefts were occurring during shipment is your clue.

      Nothing hidden here, I think.

    • Re:Protecting Profit (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @01:55PM (#56109643)

      As much as I love vilifying the carriers, Verizon is not removing the ability to unlock phones, so most of what you've said is incorrect. In fact, the linked article specifically says:

      Even after the change, Verizon will continue to unlock the phone regardless of whether it's paid off or not.

      So what's actually going on?

      In a nutshell, Verizon is simply matching what the other three US carriers already do. Currently, Verizon—unlike the rest of the carriers—sells phones unlocked by default. Going forward, they'll be stopping that practice and instead adopting the same practice of "locked by default, unlocked upon request" approach used by the other three carriers.

      All of which is to say, this is a mountain being made of a molehill due to bad reporting and poor summarization. Importantly, this won't kill the secondary market like you're claiming, any more than the current practices of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have already "killed" the secondary markets (hint: they haven't; I've had no trouble getting phones unlocked before switching carriers or selling the handsets on the secondary market). Moreover, while I would love to see Verizon obliterated for its numerous offenses (e.g. ad identifiers and supercookies, suits against the FCC, giving us Pai, etc.), I have to give them credit where it's due for not attaching the requirement that the phone be paid off before it can be unlocked, which is something that all of the other carriers require.

    • Most Verizon phones are locked to the firmware. I have a Samsung S7 edge. Technically it's unlocked but If I were to switch to Tmobile or AT&T it would only cover Verizon's common bands. Motorola phones and most other branded phones are the same. I believe Iphones are different however, I cannot confirm.
    • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) *

      That was already their practice before they started shipping phones that take SIMs. Their CDMA-only models wouldn't work with Sprint (the only other carrier using CDMA) and they definitely wouldn't work with other carriers that don't do CDMA.

      SIM-locked phones have long been unlockable after some period of time (usually when your contract is up, or close to it). I had AT&T unlock two phones, and other than the iPhone 4 needing a whole different firmware image to be installed to unlock it, the process w

  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @11:52AM (#56108649) Journal
    I find this highly unlikely. They're locking in their customers under the guise of deterring theft.
  • good to know (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmccue ( 834797 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @11:54AM (#56108673) Homepage

    Good to know, as a verizon customer who was toying with replacing my 8 year old phone with a new one, I guess I will look for another provider also.

  • by sremick ( 91371 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @11:55AM (#56108687)

    I just bought a new phone and had to order a Canadian model so that not only would it be carrier-unlocked, but also bootloader unlocked. Since I still have that crazy idea that when I buy a phone, that I own the phone and the carrier shouldn't be able to dictate what I can and can't install on it, copy off from it for backups to keep my data safe, etc.Or dictate when I need to buy a new phone because they've arbitrarily decided to stop providing OS updates for it, leaving me unsafe and left behind.

    Yes it's 1 (soon, 2) models "behind" from the latest and greatest but it's 2 models NEWER than my current phone, because I'm not a sucker who falls for marketing pressure trying to convince me I need a new phone every year when I clearly do not.

    If computer manufacturers pulled the same shit on computers, people would've been up in arms. Though we're watching Apple and now Microsoft try and take advantage of how users are being fucked and desensitized by consumer-hostile cell carrier practices, and infect PCs with the same anti-consumer practices inch by inch. Don't you dare tell me what OS I can and can't run on the hardware I bought, or what apps I can or can't use, or what data of MINE I'm allowed to copy and back up.

    (cue all the trolls who jump in and claim that rooting is no longer necessary and serves no purpose. Don't bother, you're wrong.)

    • by Voyager529 ( 1363959 ) <voyager529.yahoo@com> on Monday February 12, 2018 @12:22PM (#56108895)

      (cue all the trolls who jump in and claim that rooting is no longer necessary and serves no purpose. Don't bother, you're wrong.)

      Thank you!

      "Why do you need to root?" "Because f'k you, that's why." Even if it's for the pure reason of retaining ownership of the device, out of pure principle rooting needs to remain a mainstay.

      Still, there are reasons to root. Arguably the biggest one is that apps that shouldn't be set as 'system', and thus are unremovable, are. Shipping with them, fine, I get it. Preventing their removal is unacceptable and shame on both Google and the OEMs for allowing this practice. In many cases, the XDA community will release a ROM based on a more recent version of Android than the OEM will release, extending the life of the hardware. Also, Xprivacy/PMP. In one case, my mom's tablet kept updating in a way that prevents the Play Store from working...so I had to root it to block the update so it would continue to work.

      I don't understand the idea of people saying, "I don't need a rooted phone, so I will argue that no one else does". I never argue that everyone should have root access on their phones, but I do argue that they should be able to have it if they so choose. Those who argue the inverse forget history.

  • If the "industry" is "Verizon Wireless" then yes, locked phones are the norm.

    The rest of the wireless service providers around the world and in the US provide unlocked phones
    and are required to unlock a phone once a service contract is complete.

    Verizon has ZERO interest in preventing phone theft. They could care less. This is just a protectionist move to lock in customers.

    E

  • Verizon is taking an extra step to protect its phones.

    A) They are not Verizon's phones. They are phones that Verizon customers own. Verizon owns the network not the phones.
    B) They aren't protecting anything except their bottom line.

    • They are not Verizon's phones. They are phones that Verizon customers own.

      Before the customer buys a phone, it is Verizon's phone.
      After the customer buys a phone, it is a phone that a Verizon customer owns.

      Locking a phone while it still belongs to Verizon helps to deter thieves from stealing a phone before a customer has a chance to buy it. This way Verizon can put the savings on its theft insurance policy into improving its network.

      • You forgot "If the customer buys the phone on an installment plan, it's still Verizon's phone until paid off"

        This way Verizon can put the savings on its theft insurance policy into improving its network.

        AAAAHHHH ha ha HA HA ha ha ha. Heh. Quite the optimist, aren't you? No, they'll put that savings into further bribes^H^H^H^H^H^H lobbying efforts against carrier locks and net neutrality long before they put it into something useful, like network capacity.

        • Like people don't own their homes until they're paid off.
          • Exactly. They have partial ownership of their home, otherwise known as a lien.

            Do you have the title for your home if you are still paying a mortgage? No you do not - it's in the bank's possession. Do you have the title to a car that you have a bank loan on? No you do not. Also owned by the bank.

            This works the same way, except there is no title, so there is only a contract.

  • I recently upraded an iPhone, but I did it at an Apple Store instead of through VZW.

    The Apple sales guy asked me if I wanted an unlocked SIM.

    I'm guessing that third party vendors for Android phones would do the same.

  • by welshie ( 796807 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @12:01PM (#56108737)

    Another reason to buy standard, uncrippled, unlocked phones separately from any airtime contract.
    Buy them on credit if you must. My airtime provider doesn't care much as to what handset I have, so long as my SIM will fit, and it will work on the frequency ranges and technical standards that their network uses.

    Insurance against a phone going missing in transit from the seller to the customer should not inconvenience the customer in any way, other than possibly acknowledging safe receipt of goods. If Verizon is worried about this, they should offer free unlocking immediately after their customer acknowledges safe receipt.

  • I think the locking part is more for IMEI blacklisting. The network has the ability to block known stolen phones via an IMEI blacklisting. But each carrier has their own blacklist (there is some sharing - but not international AFAIK). So at the moment - a thief can just take the phone to another network (especially out of country), and just use it.

    Having the phone locked to the network for the first few months, means if a thief gets their hands prior to activation, then it's a brick.

    If the sim lock i

  • Verizon is locking up phones and applying 200% markup to combat pedophilia. Are you against this? If so, why do you hate children?
  • by jdavidb ( 449077 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @12:17PM (#56108863) Homepage Journal
    I bought a Verizon prepaid phone last year and it had a sticker that said it was locked to Verizon for a year "to justify the low subsidized cost of the phone" or something like that. Is this expanding from prepaid phones to all of their phones, or was this already true for all of their phones?
  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @12:22PM (#56108897)

    There must be no thieves in Belgium as it is forbidden, by law, to block phones. I change operator about every 1 to 2 years. I buy phones in the mean time when it pleases me.
    I have the same cell phonenumber since 10 to 15 years. Changing operator is as easy as going into the store, signing up for a new pre-paid card and put it in. A few hours later I get the SMS that the transfer has been done. They even ask how much there is on the old provider, as you will lose that amount. If it is a lot, they advice to do it later, when it is less and not to loose the amount on the competitors sim. Not that much with a prepaid, but if you have a contract and end it too soon, you might pay a LOT.

    And all this with unloocked phones.

    There are contracts where it is in comination with a phone, but even then I could take the phone and use that with another provider, while I use an old phone with the new contract. So say I want to use an Android and my SO wants to use an iPhone. I can sign up for an iPhone contract, use it with the android and use the Android contract (with the same or a different provider) with the iPhone.
    Oh, and no roaming costs in Europe. I hope they are working about no extra costs for calling international inside Europe. There are countries that have cheaper contracts.

    And all that because there are not any thieves in Belgium. Well, that must be it, otherwise Verizon would be lying and how can a company be lying to their customers. That would be bad for business, right? RIGHT?

  • Verizon promised [androidpolice.com], when they purchase the 700Mhz spectrum in 2007, not to do this for any device which uses the 700Mhz spectrum.

    ALL their phones use this spectrum.

    But it's going to take a class action lawsuit to get them to agree to their own rules, because there is no way Ajit is going to take them to task for violating their agreement.

    • Verizon promised [androidpolice.com], when they purchase the 700Mhz spectrum in 2007, not to do this for any device which uses the 700Mhz spectrum.

      Verizon has been violating this spectrum license agreement with their prepaid [youtube.com] phones [slickdeals.net] for awhile now. But as you said, the current head of the FCC is an industry sock puppet, so Verizon can do whatever the hell they want.

      In the grand scheme of things, ignoring Verizon's anti-consumer B.S. is one of the lesser sins of this administration. Some Americans are literally dying because they can't afford healthcare they need. But hey, if phone SIM locking and net neutrality being flushed down the toilet make a f

    • Don't worry, the class action suit will fail because the class won't have standing.

      As I understand it (IIANAL), the federal government can choose to sue to enforce their contract with Verizon, but you cannot (even though it is transitively a contract between Verizon and the People who entrust the FCC with regulatory authority).

      Yes, this is very broken and corrupt.

    • Or we could punish them another way./p.

  • Here in Canada as of last November you cannot sell any phone locked...its the law.

  • News at 11.

  • When a would-be thief sees the giant flashing "Powered by Verizon" sign floating over my phone, they'll know not to steal from me and to look for a giant "Brought to you by AT&T" banner. Thieves put a lot of thought into deciding which phone to steal.
  • by tsqr ( 808554 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @01:26PM (#56109423)

    Everyone reads the headline, and maybe part of TFS, and proceeds to jump to the worst possible conclusion.

    From TFA: For consumers, there's little immediate impact because the phone gets unlocked immediately through a software update.

    Also from TFA: Even after the change, Verizon will continue to unlock the phone [upon customer request] regardless of whether it's paid off or not. The company will also still accept unlocked phones from other carriers.

    But don't let any of that get in the way of your impotent ramps, guys. You can always switch to that other provider that doesn't lock phones to their service. Let's see, who is that, again? From TFA one more time: AT&T requires you to pay off your phone and be active on your service for at least 60 days. Even then, there's a 14-day wait after you make your request. Sprint also requires that you have paid off your phone and wait 50 days, although the phone is automatically unlocked. T-Mobile has the same paid device requirement and a 40-day wait period, but will offer to temporarily unlock the device sooner for travel.

    • way of your impotent ramps, guys

      Spoken like someone who's never had the cruel and unusual punishment that is using Verizon's website, or the humanitarian crisis that is attempting to talk to their customer abuse people.

      Service.

      I meant customer service people. But that's an easy mistake to make.

      • by sinij ( 911942 )
        We will finally know when true AI arrives when it is able to cancel Verison plan over the phone.
      • by tsqr ( 808554 )

        Spoken like someone who's never had the cruel and unusual punishment that is using Verizon's website, or the humanitarian crisis that is attempting to talk to their customer abuse people.

        Service.

        I meant customer service people. But that's an easy mistake to make.

        I've been a Verizon customer since switching when ATT acquired Cingular in 2006. Over that 11-year span, I've been over-billed once; that was about 4 years ago, and my recollection is that Verizon's customer service wasn't a problem. It certainly didn't bear any resemblance to a humanitarian crisis, but then that was hyperbole, wasn't it? The Verizonwireless website isn't a masterpiece, but it isn't particularly difficult to navigate. Of course, I've never used the website to do anything more complex than s

  • It's now illegal to sell a locked cellphone. Funny how as Canada moves one way the US seems to be moving the other.

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