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UK Gov Moots Faster Broadband ISP Switching and Contract Tweaks

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 (1:26 pm) - Score 459

The Government has today launched a new consultation that seeks feedback on a number of consumer protection measures, which among other things could introduce faster switching between ISPs and make it easier to cancel contracts online.

At present the related ‘Call for Evidence‘, which is open for feedback until 23rd June 2016, doesn’t contain a lot of detail and covers most of the major service sectors (e.g. energy, water, insurance, broadband, mobile etc.).

The language is also quite general and as such this makes it difficult to know precisely what outcome we can expect to see on the telecoms and broadband front, although we have done our best to summarise some of the key points below (beneath the quote).

John Whittingdale, Culture Secretary, said:

“We are more reliant on broadband and phone services than ever before. So we want it to be as easy as possible for consumers to spot the best deal for them, and switch providers quickly and easily if they want to. The measures we are introducing will help make sure consumers are better informed about the quality of these services and the switching process is much simpler. Also, in those cases when things don’t go right, automatic compensation will be paid out.”

Key Points of the Consumer Protection Consultation

* The Government are investigating whether or not they can make improvements to or extend the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, which is the ombudsman that handles your case when you are unable to resolve a problem directly with your ISP etc. As part of that they are also seeking evidence on whether there are problems with the current provision of ADR and if so how can it be improved. Some ISPs often complain that they’re forced to pay hundreds of pounds in ADR fees, regardless of whether or not a consumer complaint is even won.

* The Government are investigating whether there’s scope to make consumer complaints data easier to access and more widely available.

* The Government are looking at ways to make it easier for consumers to get their money back if they’ve suffered some detriment as a result of the actions of a provider.

* At present it can take 10 working days (i.e. two weeks) to switch between broadband and phone providers (sometimes longer if you have to cancel the old service first), although the Government are looking at whether or not this can be reduced to just 7 working days. The old MAC system only took 5 days, while the current 10 days exists to help prevent slamming via the new gaining provider led system.

* The Government are considering whether to end all administrative fees for switching, although it’s unclear how this would work in situations when Openreach levy the charge against ISPs. Providers may simply convert the fee into higher monthly prices.

* Consumers that sign-up online should ideally be allowed to cancel their service online too, as opposed to being forced down the more laborious manual path.

* Auto-renewal of contracts could face stiffer rules, although this may be less applicable to broadband where Ofcom has already advised ISPs not to auto-renew.

The consultation is being seen as a complement to the Government’s new 2016 Digital Economy Bill (details), which among other things has also promised a new right for consumers to automatic compensation when things go wrong and to provide further household-level information about broadband speeds from different providers.

It’s worth pointing out that the consultation also talks a lot about adopting a general Gaining Provider Led (GPL) switching process across all sectors, which already exists for fixed line broadband / phone providers and Ofcom are about to introduce it for mobile operators too. In this approach the customer only needs to contact their new (chosen) provider to start an automatic switch.

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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