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New rules to make switching broadband provider easier

New rules designed to make it easier for consumers and businesses to switch broadband provider are to come into force on 20 June

Telecommunications and broadband regulator Ofcom will introduce a new set of regulations governing the process of switching broadband provider for consumers and business on 20 June 2015, eliminating migration authorisation codes (MACs) for good.

The rule changes come after a major consultation conducted by Ofcom in 2012, which explored some of the problems people face when trying to switch their broadband provider.

Up to now, users have had to go through a number of different switching processes depending on which provider they were moving to and from, or which service or bundle of services they were switching.

Ofcom successfully argued that this increased complexity put people off changing their broadband provider in search of a better deal.

The regulator conducted research that found that where the customer had to contact their existing provider to request a change, the resulting process could be significantly harder to follow. Existing providers also had an incentive to delay or disrupt the transfer.

To resolve this problem, Ofcom decided in 2013 that consumers should only follow a single switching process, known as gaining provider led, which will hand over control to the new provider.

This means customers will no longer have to contact their existing internet service provider (ISP) to request a MAC to switch services.

Under the gaining provider led system, ISPs will keep a record of consent for any switch to protect them from the practice of slamming – a form of mis-selling where customers can be transferred between ISPs without their knowledge or consent.

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The rules also force providers to improve their processes to prevent consumers losing service when changing provider, and mitigate against consumers having their lines switched accidentally when, for example, moving house.

The information made available to customers on the implications of changing provider, such as any termination charges that may be written into their contracts, will also have to be made clearer.

The regulations apply only to customers using the Openreach copper network for standard or superfast fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) connections. They do not affect Virgin Media’s cable network or any customers taking fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband services via an independent network owner or Openreach, all of whom will need to go through a cease and re-provide process.

As part of the process, broadband providers or service resellers will need to obtain a reseller ID (RID), a three-digit code Ofcom will use to monitor and better protect users from slamming.

In a blog post, Nick Shepperd, broadband product manager at ISP Eclipse, said: “Our challenge is ensuring that all our partners are ready. Without an assigned RID code, they won’t be able to order broadband services any more.”

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