This weekend new Ofcom rules make it easier to switch broadband provider, but why is Virgin Media excluded?
British consumers from this weekend will find it easier to switch their broadband and landline connections to rival Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
But it should be noted that the new rules only affect the networks of BT Openreach and KCOM in Hull. It does NOT apply to cable operators such as Virgin Media.
One Touch Switching
The proposed change has been a long time coming. It was actually back in the summer of 2013 when Ofcom first proposed new measures to make it easier for consumers to switch their broadband and landline connections to rival ISPs.
Its move at the time was mostly welcomed by the ISP community, but with some reservations; most notably the exclusion of cable networks from the change, and concerns about customers being changed to a new provider without their knowledge or consent (a process called ‘slamming’).
So what does this new easier ‘one touch’ switching process for the consumer actually entail?
Well, currently when a user wanted to jump ship to a rival telecom or ISP provider, they are faced with a number of different switching processes, depending upon who they are moving from and to, and the type of service being switched.
This often meant for example that consumers had to contact their existing service provider in order to obtain a code to give to their new provider. Ofcom said that its research found that in these cases, the process was often difficult for the consumer to follow.
But under the new rules that start on Saturday 20 June, a new ‘one touch’ process will place the responsibility for the broadband or landline switch entirely in the hands of the provider to which the customer is moving.
Essentially, your new service provider will undertake all the work necessary to move your contract to them.
“Once the switching process is under way, the consumer will receive written confirmation from both the old and new provider,” said Ofcom. “If the consumer changes their mind, they can cancel the switch.”
And service providers have to keep records of each consumer’s consent to switch, to protect against ‘slamming’.
“The new process puts the responsibility for the switching process in the hands of the provider the customer is joining,” said Sharon White, Ofcom’s new chief executive.
“This will make a real difference for consumers, and will encourage more people to take advantage of very strong competition in the landline and broadband markets,” said White.
Why Not Cable?
BT is one of the ISPs that welcomed the new proposals two years ago, but expressed its reservations at the time about Ofcom not including the cable networks in this new change.
“Whilst Ofcom’s proposals are a step in the right direction in improving customers’ experience, we are disappointed that they have not taken the opportunity to adopt a process which could be extended to cover switches to and from other networks such as cable in future, so that we have one single, clear and simple system,” said BT back in 2013.
And it is fairly clear that BT is still not overly satisfied at the fact that Virgin Media’s network is not being included.
“BT has been working hard with Ofcom and other companies to ensure that Ofcom’s proposals are implemented effectively to enable smooth switching between providers on Openreach’s network,” BT told TechweekEurope in a rather terse emailed statement.
Ofcom told TechweekEurope that the reason why Virgin Media has not been included in these new guidelines is because it looked at this review on an infrastructure basis (i.e. copper-based networks) and not on a provider basis.
“We are not ruling out looking reviewing switching in other areas,” an Ofcom spokesperson told TechweekEurope. “We are commmited to improving switching in others areas, and you can expect a mobile switching announcement in July.”
“It is important to point out the scale of the benefits of these changes,” said Ofcom. “These changes affect four out of five broadband users in the UK, or 80 percent of UK users who access the Internet via the BT Openreach network.”
Ofcom said it would look at switching in other areas (such as cable providers), but could not provide a timeframe when this would happen.
Earlier this month, Ofcom announced new measures for consumers unhappy with their broadband speeds. People will soon be able to leave their contracts early and change their Internet Service Provider (ISP) whenever they wish, should speeds fall below acceptable levels.
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