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UPD3 Ofcom UK Reveal Chosen Solution for Easier Broadband ISP Switching

Thursday, Aug 8th, 2013 (10:15 am) - Score 889

The UK telecoms regulator has today revealed their chosen method for making it “simpler and more reliable” for consumers to switch phone or broadband ISP. As expected Ofcom has decided to adopt a Gaining Provider-Led (GPL) switching process that will put most of the power into the hands of your new provider instead of the old one.

Today’s final proposal is the product of an incredibly long winded process, which first started at the end of 2010 when Ofcom published its Strategic Review of Consumer Switching and continued during May 2012 with the regulators second consumer switching consultation. Suffice to say that Ofcom has had to balance ISP concerns over cost and complexity with the desire for consumers to be able to easily switch providers.

At present most of the current systems (e.g. ‘Migration Authorisation Codes’, ‘Notification of Transfer’ or ‘Cease and Re-provide’) require your existing provider to be an active participant in the process and not all ISPs have been particularly keen to play ball. On top of that there’s no one method that works well for all broadband platforms and thus related processes can sometimes carry unexpected costs or downtime, especially if your existing ISP suddenly goes into administration or becomes unresponsive.

The new solution means that consumers will no longer need to contact their existing provider to receive a code in order to switch provider and will instead only need to contact the new one to arrange for a migration. This will be supported by new measures to help prevent abuse (e.g. consumers losing their service during the changeover process or being switched without their consent [slamming]).

The New Switching Process

* Providers must.. 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;

* 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.

However the new system only applies to BTOpenreach’s national telecoms platform and related copper phone and broadband products (e.g. ADSL2+ [WLR / LLU], FTTC etc.) and does not apply to fully fibre optic (FTTP/H) services or Virgin Media’s cable platform. This is not a surprise since copper and fibre/cable solutions are physically separate and thus some cost will always be levied to gain a new connection.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcoms 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.”

Ofcom has now begun one last consultation on its final proposal and this will be open until 2nd October 2013. The regulator then hopes to finalise its new system by early 2014 and after that ISPs would be given a year’s grace to prepare before the new system was enforced. In other words consumers will probably have to wait until early 2015 (but some might adopt it sooner)!

But the regulator did say that it would also continue to work with ISPs to consider “further improvements to processes for landline and broadband switching between different network types (for example to and from the cable network)“.

Ofcom’s Switching Consultation (PDF)

UPDATE 10:20am

Ofcom has also highlighted some “in-depth consumer research” to support its approach, which found that 46% of consumers with a landline/broadband bundle who considered switching, but eventually decided against it, said that a lack of clarity about the switching process was something that put them off.

Similarly 60% who switched via a gaining provider led process found it easier than the losing provider led switchers. On top of that 19% of consumers following a losing provider led process said that loss of service during the transfer was a “main or major issue” experienced.

Finally 17% of consumers who spoke to their previous provider felt they were put under pressure to stay and 41% of those who were subject to persuasion were unhappy with the efforts their losing provider made to try and change their mind.

UPDATE2 11:24am

Sorry we completely forgot to link the consultation. Added above.

UPDATE3 12:13pm

Here’s a comment from TalkTalk.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

TalkTalk has long argued the switching process is unnecessarily complicated, therefore we welcome Ofcom’s announcement. A simpler, single switching process is vital for a more competitive market providing better value and choice for consumers.”

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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