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Ofcom Proposals Will Make It Easier To Switch Mobile Networks

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Ofcom says a customer’s new mobile phone provider should handle all aspects of the switchover amid concerns it is too difficult to jump ship

Ofcom wants to make it easier to switch mobile networks and has proposed new rules that would require a new provider to handle the switchover – mimicking similar arrangements in the broadband market.

The regulator says 2.5 million people (38 percent of people who moved networks) who changed mobile operator in the past year and a half experienced at least one major problem, and 5.9 million mobile users did not switch or even consider moving because of concerns about the current process.

Switch rates fell from nine percent in 2013 to six percent in 2014, due to a “complex range” of factors. At present, mobile customers have to contact their current provider to cancel a contract and obtain a PAC code so they can retain their phone number for use with another network.

Mobile switching

using mobile appsHowever, eleven percent of the 2.5 million cited difficulties contacting their current provider, ten percent reported issues with cancelling their service and the same percentage had issues retaining their existing number. One fifth said they had a temporary loss of service.

“It is unacceptable for people to be missing out on better mobile deals because they fear the hassle of switching, or are put off having had a poor experience in the past,” said Ofcom CEO Sharon White. “We want mobile customers to benefit from speedier, simpler switching, making it easier for them to vote with their feet and take advantage of choice in the market.”

Ofcom’s preferred option would see the new mobile operator contact a user’s old provider to obtain a PAC code. The new operator would deal with any issues and users are sent a text with outstanding charges and other information, such as notice periods.

Communications providers

The second option would see a customer request a PAC code from their current provider via text, phone call or online. The operator would then be obligated to provide an immediate reply, containing a PAC code, outstanding charges and notice period, which can be started immediately. Users would then have 30 days to take out a new contract with another supplier.

Ofcom is particularly concerned about loss of service when changing networks and wants to ensure operators don’t deactivate SIMs before a new account is activated and ensure operators provide enough information so consumers don’t ‘double pay’ by holding simultaneous contracts.

The regulator is inviting stakeholders to give their opinions on the proposals before 1 June and a final decision is expected in the autumn. Ofcom also wants to make it easier for subscribers to quad-play and triple-play bundled services to change providers and will publish proposals in the near future.

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