Failure to enforce faster broadband switching deadline could see £1.85bn loss

Uswitch study highlights biggest barriers to switching broadband providers and warns delay in One Touch Switch deadline could mean UK broadband customers miss out of upwards of £1.85bn in savings

“Misplaced” concerns around switching broadband providers are costing 11 million UK customers £1.85bn a year in potential savings, according to research from comparison and switching service Uswitch.

And with the research released on the day UK regulator Ofcom’s delayed One Touch Switch standard was due to come into effect, Uswitch added that the failure to enforce this deadline with broadband providers meant customers could each miss out on potential savings of £162 a year.

Announced in September 2021, One Touch Switch is a new broadband standard designed to make switching providers easier so customers can swiftly move to a cheaper deal, a faster package or change if they’re unhappy with their broadband service.

Ofcom assured that under the One Touch Switch process, broadband subscribers would only need to contact a new home broadband provider to switch, without needing to speak to their current provider before making the move. It said changing providers would also be quicker under One Touch Switch, taking just a day where possible.

The process will apply to all UK home broadband users, including cable and full-fibre customers. This means users could switch between different networks or technologies – for example, from a provider using the Openreach network to one using CityFibre, or from Virgin Media to Hyperoptic – allowing them to take advantage of more competitive deals.

Recognising this was all a highly complex change for providers, Ofcom decided in 2021 that the switching process would not come into force until April 2023, to allow providers time to make the necessary changes to their systems in order for it to work well for customers.

The Uswitch research was carried out by Opinium, which surveyed a sample of 2,000 UK adults in February and March 2023. Results were weighted to reflect a nationally representative criteria. Asked if they were considering switching broadband provider in the next 12 months, 42% of 27.3 million broadband customers in the UK indicated they were planning to switch.

Almost two in five people (38%) said they’d have less choice of entertainment if they were without broadband for one or two days. A quarter (24%) reported they wouldn’t be able to do their job when working from home. Other concerns included struggling to stay in touch with friends and family (22%), not being able to manage household finances (20%), and losing access to important and up-to-date information (20%).

The main reasons broadband customers are put off switching providers include a fear of being cut off (23%), confrontational sales calls (13%) and concerns about being charged twice (12%). However, Uswitch argued that these fears are largely unfounded. It argued that the switching process was usually easy and a new provider will do most of the work, including cancelling a customer’s current contract while start dates for a new broadband contract can be scheduled up to a month in advance to avoid being charged twice.

Despite these concerns, many customers feel they would benefit from switching broadband providers. A third of those surveyed (30%) believe their broadband isn’t as fast as it should be and a fifth (19%) reported they were unsatisfied with broadband dropouts and reliability.

As a result, Uswitch is calling on Ofcom to set a new deadline to make sure the roll-out goes ahead as soon as possible. “With inflation-linked price hikes hitting millions of people this month, the delay to One Touch Switch is a missed opportunity for Ofcom to boost broadband customers’ confidence and help them get a good deal. Almost half of broadband customers want to switch right now, but many will miss out due to unfounded concerns and a lack of clarity about the switching process,” remarked Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.

“All of these concerns would have been addressed if One Touch Switch had launched as scheduled. If Ofcom is serious about supporting consumers, as well as driving take-up of new full-fibre networks, there needs to be closer supervision of implementation programmes like this, as well as tougher consequences for providers if deadlines are missed,” Doku added.

“Switching broadband providers can save the average household £162 a year. Ofcom cannot allow for further delays at the expense of customers, especially given the current challenges to household budgets. What we need now is a tough but realistic new deadline for One Touch Switch and to push providers to make sure it happens.”

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