Ofcom has unveiled proposals designed to make it easier for Brits to switch broadband and telephone line providers that will also protect consumers from having their provider changed without their knowledge.
Under the proposals, the new provider will be responsible for handling the whole of the process including the transfer from the old service provider. Meanwhile, in a bid to protect against 'slamming' which is where consumers see their provider switched without their consent, Ofcom says an independent third-party would verify the switch.
Research by the regulator revealed that one in five consumers has lost their broadband service for seven days when switching providers, while 130,000 homes are suffered from problems with their telephone service when changing provider. Furthermore, an estimated 520,000 UK homes saw their telephone or broadband service switched without their consent.
The regulator says not only will consumers be better protected and the switching process simplified under the proposals, it will also ensure all providers can compete in the market to give consumers innovation, choice and value for money, it'll also address any technical problems that occur during the switching process and provide accurate information on the implications of switching so consumer can make informed decisions on whether to change providers.
"Smooth switching processes are essential to ensure that consumers can change providers with confidence. Many people think that the current systems are too difficult and unreliable which is why we have made it one of our priorities to tackle this problem," said Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards.
"Ofcom has improved consumer information on broadband speeds and enhanced competition in the market but it is also essential that people are able to switch easily to exercise their choice. Today's proposals are designed to make the process easier, more reliable and safe from slamming. We believe that the proposals would improve consumers' experience of switching and ensure that they continue to benefit from competition."
Michael Phillips, product director at Broadbandchoices.co.uk said the switching process for broadband and landline services has been “too complicated for too long”.
“There’s no excuse for leaving customers without a broadband connection for days during the switching process nor should they face being switched without their consent,” he said.
“We want to see a process where broadband switching becomes as easy as switching energy or any other utility. A skeptic would say that it has been in the interest of the ‘losing’ provider to drag their feet during the switching process, leaving consumers waiting days to receive their MAC (Migration Authorisation Codes) codes and offering little help with any technical problems, so we welcome Ofcom’s suggestion that the new ‘winning’ broadband provider should drive the process.”
Furthermore, Ofcom has launched a price accreditation scheme, which will see a logo awarded to comparison websites that have had their services put through a rigorous independent audit to check the information offered is accessible, accurate, transparent, comprehensive and up to date.
So far Ofcom has accredited Homephone Choices, SimplifyDigital, Cable.co.uk, Broadband Choices and Broadband.co.uk.