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Government plans to make switching providers 'quicker and simpler'

Thursday, May 26th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The government has unveiled new plans to make switching broadband or mobile providers easier for consumers.

The proposals, published yesterday, also cover gas, electricity and water services, current accounts and mortgages.

Ministers want there to be more consistency between sectors on how long it takes for people to switch between one service provider and another.

New rules allowing consumers to complete switches in less than seven days – whether it's your broadband or your mortgage – could be in place as soon as next year.

Under proposals set out in the Digital Economy Bill, customers would be able to check broadband and network coverage information for individual properties.

As well as seeing what speed they are getting, consumers would be shown what speed could be achieved at their property by other providers.

Broadband customers will be automatically compensated by their provider when things go wrong, while every British household will have the legal right to fast speeds.

The proposals will also see mobile customers able to unlock their phone for free at the end of their contract, making it easier to change network providers but keep the same handset.

The government estimates that handset owners spend a combined £48m a year unlocking their phones.

Ofcom announced plans to simplify the mobile switching process earlier this year. It suggested a ‘gaining provider-led’ approach that puts the responsibility for the switch in the hands of the new provider.

'More consistent'

Business secretary Sajid Javid said he wants to give more power to consumers to make sure they are getting the best deals.

“The government is committed to creating a system that works for consumers and makes markets more competitive,” he said.

“At the moment the time it takes to switch depends on which service you are switching.

“I want to hear what consumers and businesses think of making switching quicker and more consistent across all markets.”

The first part of a three-part consultation closes on 23 June. It covers advice, complaints and redress in the communications, energy, water and transport sectors.

The second and third parts of the consultation will look at speeding up the switching process and improving consumer choice.

Culture secretary John Whittingdale said: “We are more reliant on broadband and phone services than ever before.

“So we want it to be as easy as possible for consumers to spot the best deal for them, and switch providers quickly and easily if they want to.

“The measures we are introducing will help make sure consumers are better informed about the quality of these services and the switching process is much simpler.

“Also, in those cases when things don’t go right, automatic compensation will be paid out.”

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