Ofcom unveils mobile switching reforms

James Pearce
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UK regulator Ofcom has unveiled major reforms to how customers switch mobile provider after a lengthy review

Ofcom said it is introducing new rules to make the switching process easier after it “identified unnecessary difficulties that many consumers experience when they switch or consider switching mobile provider.”

Under the new rules, mobile users will be able to switch providers by sending a free SMS message, cutting out the process of speaking to a provider in order to leave.

According to figures from the regulator, 38% of UK mobile switchers ay they experienced at least one major problem during the switching process, while seven in 10 said they encountered at least one difficulty.

The changes, which will come into force in July, 2018, mean providers will be banned from making notice-period charges after the switch date – saving UK mobile customers around £10m in total each year, Ofcom claims.

Customers who are able to switch will be able to request a code by texting a free number, going online, or by calling their provider. They then receive the code, which they pass to their new provider when they are ready to move their number. The service, Ofcom claims, will be completed within one working day.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “Too many people are put off by the hassle of switching mobile provider. Our changes will make it quicker and easier for mobile phone users to get a better deal.

“Customers will control how much contact they have with their current mobile provider, preventing companies from delaying and frustrating the switching process.”

CK Hutchison’s UK mobile operator Three has been lobbying for changes to the switching process for several years, and said it welcomes the decision from Ofcom. However, a spokesperson for the operator claimed the regulator should have gone further.

The three spokesperson said: “For more than a decade Three has been encouraging Ofcom to do more to ensure that consumers can easily switch mobile phone provider and get the best deal.

“While we are pleased that there is now a simpler process, we believe that Ofcom’s decision not to prevent “last ditch” deals means that the UK still lags behind its international peers in terms of consumer rights.”