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Ofcom: We'll make switching mobile provider easier for consumers

Wednesday, March 23rd 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

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

The communications regulator said around 2.5m people who changed mobile provider in the past 18 months have suffered at least one major problem.

It said changes are needed in order to address consumer harm and support competition in the market, and outlined two new proposals.

Ofcom’s preferred option is to use a ‘gaining provider-led’ process similar to that introduced for customers switching between broadband companies.

The process places responsibility for the switch, including the transfer of a mobile phone number, into the hands of the new provider.

An alternative option is a simplified version of the current process, which would make it easier for customers to keep their existing phone number when moving to a new network.

Under this proposal, customers would no longer have to speak to their existing provider to request their PAC – the code needed to transfer a number. Instead, people could ask to receive their PAC online or by text message.

Both proposals also include measures aimed at helping customers manage notice periods and avoiding two mobile contracts overlapping.

Under the ‘gaining provider-led’ option, new providers would be required to inform customers about their notice period and offer them the chance to defer their switch by up to 30 days.

The other option would require providers to start the clock ticking on any notice period from the date the PAC is requested.

'Hassle'

Ofcom said 11% of people who had switched mobile provider in the past 18 months had difficulties contacting their current provider.

10% had problems cancelling their service and a further 10% encountered difficulties keeping their number. A fifth of mobile switchers (20%) temporarily lost service.

Around 5.9m mobile users have never switched, nor considered switching, to a new provider in the last year because of concerns about the current process, Ofcom claimed.

The regulator’s chief executive Sharon White said: “It is unacceptable for people to be missing out on better mobile deals because they fear the hassle of switching, or are put off having had a poor experience in the past.

“We want mobile customers to benefit from speedier, simpler switching, making it easier for them to vote with their feet and take advantage of choice in the market.”

Ofcom is looking for comments on its mobile switching proposals by 1 June and will publish its final decision in the autumn.

It is also looking at consumers’ experiences of switching bundled services – landline, broadband and pay TV – between providers using the Openreach, Virgin Media or Sky satellite networks.

It is expected to publish its proposals in the summer.

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