Saturday, 20 January, 2018

Ofcom to enable mobile provider switching via free text

Ofcom wants it to become easier for customers to switch mobile phone contracts Ofcom wants it to become easier for customers to switch mobile phone contracts
Grady Vargas | 20 December, 2017, 01:35

Mobile phone users will soon be able to switch providers by sending a text to the operator they want to leave, the telecoms regulator has confirmed.

But uSwitch.com said its research indicated a switching process of the kind Ofcom has already instituted for broadband and landline changes - in which users simply contact the provider they want, the "gaining provider", who then handles all the details of the switching procedure - would have been more effective.

Ofcom's consumer group director Lindsey Fussell said: 'Too many people are put off by the hassle of switching mobile provider.

Instead of having to call their existing provider and enduring often unwanted efforts to persuade them to stay, customers will be able to just text their provider or visit their website to request a PAC number which they can give to their new network to bring their number across.

The 18-month delay in instituting the reforms gives operators the time they'll need to make the necessary changes to their systems - setting up the short codes and automated response systems, making arrangements to coordinate switchovers with their competitors and making new billing arrangements to end notice-period double payments. It first proposed the new rules in May this year, which appear to have changed little after consultation through the summer.

From July 2019, mobile users will be able to switch providers by requesting a unique switching code from their current provider by text or online.

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The provider's reply must also include important information about any early termination charges, outstanding handset costs, or pay-as-you-go credit balances.

This will put an end to customers paying for old and new services at the same time, and will save Brits around £10million a year. Think of it as a Porting Authorization Code (PAC code), but for your entire account.

Ofcom recognised that the reforms will require mobile operators to make a number of changes to their systems, and require co-ordination between mobile companies. The user can then send the code on to their new chosen service provider, who will set them up within one working day, with no notice period charges or other fees to pay.

A Vodafone spokesman said: 'We agree that it should be simple for customers to select the service which best suits them and we are examining Ofcom's announcement.

The code received will be valid for 30 days, giving consumers the chance to see if their current provider can offer a better deal.

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