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Ofcom has launched a consultation on how to make the process of switching between mobile network operators (MNOs) an easier and less convoluted process for consumers.
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The telecoms regulator conducted research suggesting 38% of customers in the UK who changed their mobile provider in the past 18 months – approximately 2.5 million people – had experienced problems.
These included difficulties in contacting their provider, cancelling their service or keeping their existing phone number. One in five people said they temporarily lost service.
Ofcom estimated there were approximately 5.9 million Britons who had never switched provider because they were concerned about the process.
“It is unacceptable for people to miss 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.”
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Gaining provider-led switching
Ofcom is seeking feedback on the proposal to introduce a gaining provider-led mechanism for switching.
This process – which was introduced for broadband customers in June 2015 – places all responsibility for switching on the customer’s new provider. This includes porting existing phone numbers, meaning the customer only has to deal with one network instead of both.
It will also seek views on a second option, under which consumers would not have to speak to their existing provider to request a port authorisation code (PAC) to port their phone number, and could initiate the process by text message or online.
Both options would eliminate steps in the switching process during which trained callcentre agents try to dissuade consumers from moving.
Cable.co.uk analyst Dan Howdle said he was elated that Ofcom was considering such steps.
“The gaining provider-led system was put in place for broadband customers last year, and we have noticed a significant drop in reported switching problems since that time,” he said.
“Ofcom is finally looking to expose the convoluted switching process for what it is – not merely a series of laborious administrative hoops, but a set of sticking points designed to actively dissuade us from switching provider.”
Additionally, Ofcom will propose measures to ensure previous providers cannot deactivate a customer’s Sim card until the new provider has activated their new one; and to ensure customers are better able to manage contract-mandated notice periods and do not end up paying two different companies for using only one service.
Stakeholders will have until the beginning of June to contribute their views to the consultation process.