Ofcom easing telecom switch process



Consumers will find it easier to switch landline and broadband providers under new proposals announced by Ofcom.

Under the changes, the new provider will handle the switch on behalf of the consumer under a single process governing all companies.

Consumers currently face a number of different switching processes depending on the providers involved and the type of service.

Ofcom said the process causes confusion and the perception of difficulty, which can prevent consumers from moving to a better deal.
Under the single system, providers will 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".

The regulator has also set out measures to help prevent consumers losing their service during the changeover process or being switched without their consent.

Ofcom's consumer group director Claudio Pollack 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."

Marie-Louise Abretti, a spokeswoman for the uSwitch price comparison site, said: "This announcement is a long overdue victory for consumers and common sense. We have long campaigned for this change and our research shows that consumers share our view - just one in 10 say that the provider you're leaving should handle the switch.

"This decision by Ofcom will make the process simpler, clearer and less daunting."

Dominic Baliszewski, of comparison site broadbandchoices.co.uk, said: "Ofcom's latest decision to help make switching landline and broadband providers easier is an important milestone and greatly needed.

"We regularly hear from customers who were keen to switch but have faced so much hassle from their 'current' provider they eventually gave up, missing out on the cost savings and improved service that come with changing provider.

"Putting the provider that customers want to switch to in charge of the process will eliminate the tug-of-war that broadband customers sometimes find themselves in, putting it more on a par with energy switching - seamless and painless."

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: " Some people will have been paying over the odds for their broadband and landline services because the switching process has been too cumbersome and complicated, putting them off shopping around for a cheaper price.

"An easier way to get a better deal on your telephone and broadband services is most welcome for consumers.

"With around 7,800 complaints about landlines reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service a year, a more simple switching service will not only help people save money but it will be easier to escape the clutches of a company that's not up to scratch.

"The new measures will also protect people from being switched without their permission, known as slammed.

"Ofcom now needs to work towards extending this system to mobile phone and cable services."

© 2013 Press Association