Ofcom proposes new regulations which would require your new mobile operator to deal with your old one when you want to leave
Ofcom wants to make it simpler for consumers to switch mobile operators and is considering replicating the model employed in the broadband market where the new provider handles the switchover – transferring the onus from the customer to the company.
The regulator is concerned operators are making it difficult to switch networks, hindering competition. It notes that switching rates have fallen from nine percent in 2013 to six percent in 2014, due to a “complex range” of factors.
Currently, mobile users must obtain a ‘PAC’ code from their old service provider if they wish to use their existing phone number on their new network. An alternative proposal being considered would to be make this process simpler.
“Consumers should be able to switch their mobile providers with minimum hassle to take advantage of the best deals on the market,” said Ofcom CEO Sharon White. “Ofcom has recently made switching easier for millions of broadband users, and we are now focusing on improving the process for mobile customers.”
The consultation will also consider how easy it is for customers of ‘triple play’ operators, which offer landline, broadband and mobile services, to switch providers, before it closes on 6 October.
The new broadband switching rules came in to effect last month, and Ofcom said it was looking into reviewing the regulations for other markets too.
Ofcom is currently in the middle of a once-in-a-decade review of the UK communications market, the conclusions of which could shape the framework for the next decade. In its first ‘issues’ document, the watchdog said it was happy with competition in the mobile sector, but would monitor the trend towards convergence and bundled services carefully.
“It’s about time all of the telecoms sector fell in line with other industries, where the provider you’re moving to handles the switch, rather than the provider you’re leaving,” said Richard Neudegg, regulations expert at uSwitch. “Mobile has been left with an archaic switching process, that requires you to force a special code out of your old provider before you can take your mobile number to a new mobile service. With some providers, you even have to ask them to unlock your handset first.
“It’s good news that Ofcom is taking the first step towards improving this process for consumers, so it’s as easy as possible to access the best deals. A ‘gaining provider led’ system is the best way to do this.
“However, mobile is just one part of the bigger picture. Ofcom made changes to switching broadband in June, which improved the experience for some customers. However, these didn’t apply to mobile, pay TV or Virgin Media’s broadband network, so there is still plenty of room to shake things up there too.”
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