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Consumers to benefit from easier broadband and landline switching

8th August 2013 Print

Ofcom has announced new measures to help consumers change landline and broadband providers with greater ease, confidence and convenience.
Consumers currently face a number of different switching processes depending on which provider they are moving from and to, or the type of service being switched.
Not only do complex switching processes cause confusion, they also increase the perception that switching is difficult, which can prevent consumers from moving to a better deal.
Ofcom research shows that, in cases where the customer has to contact their existing company to request a change, the resulting process can be significantly more difficult for consumers to follow.
Such a process can give too much control to the existing provider, which has an incentive to delay or disrupt the transfer. This can also result in unwanted pressure on customers not to change provider.
To resolve these problems, Ofcom has today decided that consumers only need follow a single switching process in future, in which the new provider leads the transfer process on behalf of the consumer.
Under this ‘gaining provider led' process, which is already in use for most landline and broadband switches, consumers will no longer need to contact their existing provider to receive a code in order to switch provider.
Ofcom has also set out additional measures to help prevent consumers losing their service during the changeover process or being switched without their consent.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's Consumer Group Director, said: "Today's announcement represents an important milestone in Ofcom's work to improve consumers' experience when switching provider.
"The move towards one clear and simple system led by the gaining provider will result in a switching process that works in consumers' best interests. We will now be working on further measures to improve consumers' experience of switching."

A clear and improved switching process to help consumers
Ofcom proposes to move to a single process based on the existing gaining provider-led system. The existing process will be enhanced to deliver added benefits for consumers.
Under the single switching process, providers would have to:

keep a record of every customer's consent for any switch to protect them from being deliberately transferred to a different provider without consent - a practice known as ‘slamming';

improve their use of certain processes to prevent against consumers losing service when changing provider, particularly when switching landline and broadband services together;

mitigate against consumers having their lines switched accidentally during house-moves, by only placing an order to take over communications services at the new property once they have an exact match for that address. Consumers moving out of the address where services are due to be taken over must also be notified by their own provider; and

give consumers better information on the implications of changing provider, such as early termination charges, so they can make informed decisions on whether to switch.

Ofcom is today consulting on the detail of putting these improvements in place, via a change to regulatory rules (known as ‘General Conditions') and on timescales for changes. This consultation closes on 2 October 2013.
Ofcom aims to finalise these details by early 2014, with the new process coming into effect within a year thereafter.
Next steps on switching
Following today's announcement, the next phase of work on switching will be focused on two key areas:

working with industry on additional ways of ensuring consumers are better protected against having their lines switched in error; and

considering further improvements to processes for landline and broadband switching between different network types (for example to and from the cable network);

In the future, Ofcom may also review switching processes for pay TV and mobile. Today's statement and consultation and an accompanying plain English summary can be found online.