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Ofcom looking at ways to make switching easier for mobile customers

Tuesday, July 28th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Ofcom has outlined plans to make it easier for mobile customers to switch providers.

The telecoms regulator said the current system can cause confusion, especially if customers want to keep their existing mobile number, and can discourage them from switching, meaning they are missing out on the best deals.

A consultation, launched today, will look at a range of possible options, including something called ‘gaining provider led’ switching, which puts the responsible for the switch in the hands of the company the customer wants to move to.

It would mean that customers would not have to contact their current provider if they want to change.

The proposals would not prevent people from contacting their existing provider to end their contract or discuss a switch if they wanted to, but it would not be necessary.

Ofcom is also considering simplifying the process for obtaining the PAC (porting authorisation code), which allows a customer to keep their existing number.

Currently, when switching provider a mobile customer can choose whether to get a new phone number or keep their old one by ‘porting’ it to the new network.

To port the number, they have to contact their current provider for the PAC and give it to the provider they want to move to.

If someone does not want to keep their number, under the current system they have to cancel their existing service with their current provider themselves, and organise a new service with a new provider.

'Minimum hassle'

Ofcom said it is concerned that some operators make this process difficult, and make it unnecessarily problematic for people to switch mobile providers.

The move is part of a general focus by Ofcom on switching for telecoms customers.

Last month, the regulator introduced changes that made it easier for people to switch between broadband and landline providers that use the Openreach network, including BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk.

From 20 June, a new ‘one touch’ process put the responsibility of switching the broadband or landline service in the hands of the company to which the customer is moving.

Last month, Ofcom also launched what it called a ‘monitoring and enforcement programme’ to look at the cancellation and termination arrangements of providers offering landline, mobile, broadband and subscription TV services.

The probe is looking at the impact these arrangements have on consumers’ abilities to exit their contract “quickly, conveniently and without error”.

Ofcom said it receives a large number of complaints about the difficulties experienced by consumers trying to exit their contract, suggesting that providers are “systematically making it difficult”.

Today the regulator said it is also examining consumers’ experiences of switching ‘triple play’ – landline, broadband and pay TV – services between providers using the Openreach, Virgin Media cable or Sky satellite networks.

Ofcom CEO Sharon White said: “Consumers should be able to switch their mobile providers with minimum hassle to take advantage of the best deals on the market.

“Ofcom has recently made switching easier for millions of broadband users, and we are now focusing on improving the process for mobile customers.”

The closing date for responses to the consultation is 6 October.

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