Ofcom calls for easing of rules on phone contract switches

Changes may include making the new providers responsible for the customer's move

Updated: 

Ofcom calls for easing of rules on phone contract switches

Mobile phone users could soon find it easier to switch providers, amidst concerns that companies are making it "unnecessarily hard" for customers, a watchdog has said.

A public consultation has been launched to make moving contracts easier, with regulator Ofcom saying the current system is confusing and puts people off hunting for the best deals.

Changes could include making the consumer's new provider responsible for their move. This would mean customers would not have to contact their current provider unless they wanted to.

Ofcom is also looking at simplifying the transfer of mobile phone numbers. Currently, users must obtain a code from their old provider, and take it to their new one, a process made more difficult by call centre queues.

Chief executive 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 consultation has been welcomed by consumer rights groups.

Guy Anker, managing editor of MoneySavingExpert.com described the current system as "convoluted" and "admin-heavy".

He said: "The process to switch mobile phone provider is convoluted and admin-heavy, and customers need to keep on top of the switch to avoid paying twice.

"It's vital the system is significantly simplified so customers only need to deal with the new provider as they do on so many other types of switching. Only then will people have the true confidence to get themselves a better deal."

Rates of switching services fell from 9% to 6% between 2013 and 2014, according to Ofcom.

But an O2 spokesman said the current system worked well for most customers.

He said: "Overall the current switching process appears to work well for the vast majority of customers, but we welcome dialogue with Ofcom on where improvements can be made.

"For there to be a big move to change processes and systems to "recipient led", there needs to be confidence that the benefits of such a move outweigh the costs – and deliver a better experience for customers."

The public consultation process will end on October 6.

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