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Ofcom plans to make it easier to switch between BT, Virgin and Sky

Friday, July 29th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Ofcom has announced plans to make switching between different broadband or TV networks easier.

Changes introduced by Ofcom last year made it easier for consumers to switch between providers that use the broadband network operated by Openreach – including BT, Sky, TalkTalk and EE.

Proposals outlined today would allow people to switch more easily between the Openreach network, Virgin Media’s cable network, Sky’s satellite service and KCOM in Hull.

Ofcom says around 884,000 switches are made between these networks every year and that the changes would apply for consumers switching any combination of landline, broadband or pay TV services.

The telecoms regulator’s preferred option is a ‘one-stop’ process that puts the responsibility for the switch in the hands of the provider to which the customer is moving.

This would mean consumers only have to contact the company they are switching to.

An alternative option would mean customers still have to contact their current provider to cancel, but could do so without speaking to them on the phone.

Under this proposal, firms would be required to offer more ways of cancelling a service, such as online or via webchat.

Ofcom said both options would ensure that customers’ old services would not be switched off until their new service is active and that they are not charged for two services at the same time.

While the changes implemented last year have simplified the switching process, there have still been problems for consumers – as predicted by ISPA chairman James Blessing.

'Headaches'

Katrina Cliffe, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, ended up paying for two broadband services after switching from EE to Sky.

Mrs Cliffe was left £40 out of pocket by the error, which EE later corrected, and warned that others could face similar problems.

“What needs to be looked into is how many customers are going to be charged twice for 14 days,” she said. “I can see it causing a lot of headaches for people.”

Sarah Beattie, of Ealing, West London, had her broadband and phone line cut off by TalkTalk despite not wanting to switch and not speaking to any other provider.

TalkTalk apologised for the loss of service but said it was legally obliged to release a customer’s line when it receives a request from another company, unless the customer tells them otherwise.

Ofcom is now asking for views on its new proposals by 21 October and will publish its final decision by summer 2017.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “People should be able to switch easily to take advantage of the best deals in the market.

“We’ve already improved the switching experience for millions of landline and broadband customers.

“Now we’re consulting on making it easier and more reliable for telecoms and TV customers to switch between different networks – including when their services are bundled on to one bill.”

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