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By: MarkJ - 30 June, 2009 (8:38 AM)
Ofcom's mandatory broadband migration rules (General Condition 22) have done a lot to improve the UK ISP market, yet very little has been done in the years since its inception to make it easier for consumers with bundled services (broadband, line rental and voice packages etc.) to switch providers. Today the Communications Consumer Panel (CCP) is calling for that to change.

In a letter to Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Affairs, Claudio Pollack, Panel Chair Anna Bradley said that:
“In parallel with strengthening and enforcing the rules on fixed line mis-selling, we believe that Ofcom should be working towards a single process to enable consumers who buy bundles of services to switch provider quickly and easily. We would like to see Ofcom develop a strategy to move to a single switching process as soon as possible.”

Back when Ofcom first introduced its new GC22 / Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) rules the market was very different and still largely dominated by BT based ISPs. Today the situation is reversed, with shared and fully unbundled (LLU) providers increasingly taking the lions share.

Unbundled providers buy access to BT's network, allowing them to install their own kit in local exchanges and bypass BT. Fully LLU ISPs thus have maximum control of the line rental, voice and broadband services. Shared LLU ISPs are similar, except BT retains some control of the line.

Sadly Ofcom's migration rules have left gaps that can cause problems for those seeking to migrate off or between unbundled ISPs. In extreme cases consumers often find it easier to migrate back to BT, which is problematic because that locks them into a new 12 month contract (Check out our ‘Common ISP Complaints and Advice’ page for more).

Anna Bradley concluded that the Panel also wanted Ofcom to ensure that its enforcement activity to prevent mis-selling is resourced properly and that, “Where possible, Ofcom should impose on providers that break the rules financial penalties that have a wider deterrent effect. This would help to raise the level of compliance across the industry.”

The Consumer Panel says this should all involve a detailed examination of the possible options, as well as engagement with industry to develop the process. But central to Ofcom’s strategy should be a clear understanding of the requirements of consumers.
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