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Switching mobile phone provider to be made easier

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Switching mobile phone provider could soon become quicker and easier under proposals released today by regulator Ofcom.

Ofcom plans to overhaul the switching system after it found around 2.5 million people who changed mobile provider in the last 18 months experienced at least one major problem during the process.

Issues included difficulties contacting their current provider, keeping their phone number, and temporarily lost service.

The regulator has outlined two switching proposals.

Its preference is the introduction of a ‘gaining provider-led’ process. This would place responsibility for the switch, including the transfer of a customer’s mobile phone number, entirely in the hands of their new provider. The customer need only deal with the company they are switching to.

The alternative process would mean customers would no longer have to speak to their existing provider to request their ‘PAC’ – the code necessary to transfer their mobile telephone number.

Instead, customers could ask to receive their PAC by text message, or online.

The regulator said around 5.9 million mobile users have never switched, nor considered switching to a new provider in the last year, because of concerns about the current process.

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said: “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.

“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 is also proposing new measures to help prevent customers from temporarily losing service while moving from one provider to another, including ensuring a customer’s old provider does not deactivate a customer’s SIM card until their new provider has activated their new one.

Ofcom is seeking views on its mobile switching proposals by 1 June 2016 before it publishes its final decision in autumn 2016.

The regulator is also progressing work on consumers’ experience of switching bundled services – landline, broadband and pay TV – between providers using the Openreach, Virgin Media cable or Sky satellite networks. It expects to publish next steps, including any proposals for change as necessary, in the summer.