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Broadband regulations fail to take hold

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15/02/2008

New rules introduced a year ago by Ofcom, the broadband regulator, have failed in their aim to make it easier to change services, according to uSwitch.

New research by uSwitch, a price comparison site, claims that it is actually getting harder for consumers to switch between broadband services, despite Ofcom’s efforts. This time last year, the regulator enforced a rule to ensure broadband companies supply its customers with a Migration Access Code (MAC) within five working days. A MAC allows for ease of switching between providers without a break in service. It is similar to a serial number and is used to identify your broadband connection using the local telephone exchange.

According to uSwitch, 38% of broadband switchers since February 2007 have not received a MAC within five days and 14% failed to receive one at all. Before Ofcom’s intervention, 11% of requests for MACs failed. Of those who did receive a code from their provider, 46% got it upon asking for the first time, but 24% had to chase their provider at least once.

Steve Weller, communications expert at uSwitch, said: “Ofcom needs to address this issue as a matter of urgency and come down hard on providers failing to deliver a MAC code. If this means issuing financial penalties then so be it.

“Prices have fallen 36% over the last four years and the average household can now save over £100 a year by switching. What’s more, speeds are now faster than ever. With so much to gain, it would be a scandal to see an inadequate MAC code process putting consumers off from moving to a better deal.”

A mandatory code of practice was introduced by Ofcom on 14 February 2007 in response to complaints that companies were refusing, delaying or even charging to supply a MAC. Broadband firms are now required to supply customers with a MAC code upon request, free of charge and within five working days.

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