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Ofcom Finalise One Touch Switching for UK Broadband and Phone UPDATE

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021 (7:56 am) - Score 3,024
switching_between_broadband_providers_image

Ofcom has today decided to adopt the new ‘One Touch Switch‘ (OTS) process for customers of fixed line phone and broadband ISPs, which will make it easier for you to switch between providers on physically separate networks (e.g. Openreach’s full fibre to CityFibre or Virgin Media etc.). But you’ll have to wait until April 2023 to use it!

At present migrating between ISPs on Openreach’s (BT) national infrastructure is an easy and largely automated Gaining Provider Led (GPL) process (i.e. just contact your new ISP, and they’ll get the ball rolling). But it’s often a different story if you need to change between providers on a physically separate network (e.g. Openreach FTTP to Cityfibre, Hyperoptic or Virgin Media etc.).

NOTE: Ofcom found that 41% who decide against switching are put off by the hassle of having to contact more than one provider, while 43% are put off switching as they think it will be too time-consuming. And of those who do switch, 24% who contact their current ISP face “unwanted attempts” to persuade them to stay.

Sadly, customers who want to switch between such separate networks often have to take the manual cancellation route (i.e. order the new service and then contact your old ISP to cancel), which can result in longer periods of downtime (perfect coordination is difficult) and greater uncertainty for consumers. Customers can also find themselves stuck paying for two services at once, even if only one is usable, but this rarely lasts long.

The rapid increase in alternative networks (Summary of UK Full Fibre Builds) is only going to make this situation much more problematic. Ofcom has thus spent the past few years working with the industry to develop a new One Touch Switch process.

The One Touch Switch Process

In simple terms, the new process essentially extends GPL to include other networks, while adding some additional protections. Ofcom states that any “loss of service” that might occur during a switch must NOT be allowed to exceed 1 working day (“if technically possible“) and providers will be expected to compensate customers if things go wrong.

ofcom_2022_uk_broadband_one_touch_switching_process

Meanwhile, the losing provider will be required to continue to supply the end-user on the same terms, until the new service is activated by the gaining provider, and to automatically terminate end-users’ contracts upon conclusion of the switching process. The losing ISP will also be required to reactivate the phone number and all related services where a switching process fails, and until the port is successful.

In terms of number porting (phone services), the regulator will also be making some “limited” changes, which includes giving customers the “right to port their number for one month after they have terminated their contract and a prohibition on charging customers to port their number.” This should be a big help as at present it can be quite tedious to get your number back if it’s lost during a switch.

We should add that the OTS process itself does not currently specify porting arrangements, but Ofcom does expect “further development in relation to number porting” and that “there may be a need for the Hub to include a communications channel” to help facilitate all of it. But regardless, providers will still need to comply with all of these new rules by the same date (3rd April 2023).

Finally, Ofcom has also banned notice period charges beyond the switch date for residential customers, which should hopefully prevent situations where a customer ends up having to pay for two services at the same time. A detailed summary of how all of this will work can be found below.

One Touch Switch Process (Detailed)

ofcom_one_touch_broadband_switching_process_final

The new system marks a significant change, particularly for the new generation of alternative network providers (until now many of them won’t have had to deal with complicated consumer regulatory measures). In recognition of that Ofcom has given the market until 3rd April 2023 to implement the system, which is even further back than the previously proposed date of December 2022.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Networks and Communications Group Director, said:

“Household finances are strained at the moment, so switching broadband provider could help keep your bills down.

We’re making it as easy as possible for you to break up with your broadband provider and take advantage of the deals on offer.”

We should point out that this new process is for residential customers only, which Ofcom states is because “business and residential customers can sometimes have different needs when switching and that there is diversity among business which means it may not be appropriate to specify certain rules that would apply to all business customers in the same way as to residential customers.”

Ofcom also provided some information on the cost (to ISPs) of implementing this new system. The impact of this across the retail telephone and broadband markets in aggregate would, says the regulator, be £0.03 per month per customer or less, which they said is “very small when compared to the typical bill for landline and broadband services of a UK household (c.£41 per month).

Separately, the regulator will also improve the information that providers must give to customers who are considering switching their mobile service. Your existing operator will now need to tell you about the impact of the switch on other services you have with the provider (e.g. any bundled services or specific services for disabled customers), which will help customers to understand the implications of switching.

A final consultation on the new switching process is now being conducted, which will remain open until 9th November 2021. Ofcom then plans to publish a final statement confirming changes to their General Conditions (rules) in early 2022, but we aren’t expecting any major changes to the new process to arise by then.

Ofcom One Touch Switching Consultation
https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/category-2/simpler-broadband-switching

UPDATE 10:01am

The first comment from a major ISP has just come in.

A BT spokesperson said:

“We want to make switching broadband providers as simple as possible for consumers, regardless of which network they are on. By allowing customers to only have to notify their new provider, we believe this process will do just that. We’re keen to get the new process up and running quickly, and we urge all providers to work collaboratively on this.

We also want the new process to extend to switching Pay TV providers, so that the benefits of seamless switching are not undermined for those who take a “triple play” bundle of voice, broadband and pay TV.”

UPDATE 12:10pm

A comment from urban focused full fibre builder and UK ISP Hyperoptic.

Charles Davies, MD of ISP Hyperoptic, said:

“Today is a win for consumers. With ‘one-touch switch’ consumers will find switching their broadband so much easier. Ofcom has effectively removed the faff and hassle, which is so important given the busy lives we all lead. Consumers will be in the driving seat, to surf the market and get much better deals, without their existing provider making it difficult for them to leave.”

UPDATE 12:30pm

Zen Internet has added a comment too.

Richard Tang, Founder and Chairman at Zen Internet, said:

“Ofcom’s latest ‘One Touch Switch’ process is welcomed, making it simpler and easier for everyone. Our research revealed over a fifth (21%) were ready to ‘move on’ or switch to a different internet provider due to poor connection throughout the pandemic. However, many have seemingly failed to do so, and some providers have taken advantage of this consumer inaction and the perceived hassle of switching for years, hiking prices as a result.

Zen is the UK’s only broadband provider that offers a price for life, so the price our customers pay for their broadband services will never go up, in or out of contract while they remain on the same service. Providers should have the trust that customers will stick with them out of choice, because they offer the best service, not because they have a fear of switching.”

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Buggerlugz says:

    Just imagine if it works as badly as the current system for swapping energy suppliers….

  2. Meadmodj says:

    Well, working on the basis of you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it I hope Ofcom are to measure the success of these transfers including the full success of number porting and have meaningful compensation against leaving or gaining provider.

    It is disappointing if it is not accompanied with other obligations. People switch for various reasons, low performing technology (DSL), inconsistent performance (VM), customer service but a lot of change is simply being lured by some seemingly good offer, freebies and a oven ready, world beating, global leading gizmo which is going to transform their life. This is then compounded by the lack of loyalty and price hikes at the end of contract or ongoing annual ones.

    I have switched my energy supplier, other than a change of price and source no technical change. However, with broadband on switching we now expect the latest kit and the disposal of the old supplier’s kit and this has been getting worse as more product is offered.

    Now if changes include that of the network provider this will also include ONTs. Many will keep the old and the new ONT but if installed in a visible living space don’t expect that to be too long. The principle remains that instead of one ONT in some competitive areas people may migrate overtime from say OR to VM to Cityfibre to say FW. That’s four ONTs, four Routers and other bits of plastic, precious metals and dorment fibre over an 8-year period. There is no panacea, and many will retain the same ISP for years but there is a need for Ofcom to consider the wider ecological impact of any changes they make. Especially when the consumer may not understand the impact ecologically or disruption.

    Part of the solution could be:
    To encourage Altnets to expand their wholesale promises to real open processes so that most ISPs can use whatever technology there is in each street and people can change ISP without necessarily forcing a technology change.
    A universal open login mechanism (hard or soft) so that users can utilise their alternative Routers with a WAN port.
    Ensure ISPs change their firmware on existing DSL Routers to reenable a LAN port as a WAN so older routers which can adequately support lower tier FTTP products can continue to be used.
    A discounted broadband incentive if you use your own CPE kit.

    1. Laurence 'GreenReaper' Parry says:

      On the plus side, you can repurpose some of those old routers for extra networking around the house. That’s what I ended up doing with the BT Smart Hub (which we got before they switched all equipment to rental) and now we have signal all the way down the garden.

      It is true that you tend to end up with a lot of junk, though – as well as having to keep it around in case they want it back.

    2. Spurple says:

      … Or the losing ISP take back and recycle/reuse kit that the end user no longer needs.

  3. AQX says:

    Would this mean no more 30 days notice? If so I can see providers charging an additional termination fee for this…

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