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Barriers to switching: Brits spend 2.4m hours a year trying to leave mobile network

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
The average mobile phone customer spends 25 minutes trying to leave their provider, according to a report highlighting the barriers to switching network.

The report from found UK mobile customers have collectively spent 2.4 million hours in talks to leave networks in the past year.

However, switching can pay off, with the average customer saving £100 by moving to a new operator, the research found.

More than four in 10 people polled (41%) had to contact their network at least twice to switch, and more than a tenth (11%) four or more times.

Nearly a quarter (24%) successfully switched provider in the last year, but only 23% described the process of leaving their network as ‘easy’.

More than a fifth (22%) felt pressured into staying, while a similar number were bombarded with questions. Another 16% said the conversation was ‘awkward’.

‘Bring the mobile industry in line with energy’

uSwitch said one of the barriers to switching is the fact that customers have to contact the provider they’re leaving to request a PAC – a unique code needed to take your mobile number with you – to start the process.

In contrast, if you switch energy supplier or current account, the provider or bank handles the switch.

Ofcom, the communications watchdog is currently consulting on a mobile switching process whereby the gaining provider leads the process.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at, said with the current system, there’s little incentive for networks to make the switching process easy: “We’ve heard of all sorts of retention tactics deployed by mobile networks to make people reconsider leaving.

“For example, one in 10 switchers told us the tone of the customer service staff actually became more unfriendly when they insisted they wanted to leave – hardly a good way to entice customers to stay.

“An issue our research highlights is that in a market where the operator you’re attempting to leave handles your switch, there is relatively little incentive for networks to make it easy.”

He added that while Ofcom has launched a proposal for the switch to be handled by the new provider, currently the old system still stands and it’s “clearly costing people both time and money.”

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