Easier mobile switching being pursued by Ofcom
Switching mobile phone provider could soon get easier now the regulator Ofcom is consulting on the issue.
Ofcom has proposed "a simple process" that would see the new provider made "entirely responsible for the switch".
At present, consumers have to deal with several different processes, depending on whether they wish to keep their existing phone number - referred to as 'porting'.
If they do wish to port their number, they have to get a 'PAC' code from their existing provider and give it to the new one.
Ofcom said: "There are indications that current mobile switching arrangements are likely to generate unnecessary harm for customers, whether or not the switch involves a number port."
It added that half of recent switchers experienced a number of "issues" with the process they went through.
These included switching costs such as early termination charges, the time taken and hassle involved in multiple switching processes and double-paying to ensure continuity of service.
The latter problem is caused by consumers having to co-ordinate the end of their old contract with the start of the new service. In order to avoid being cut off switchers choose to subscribe to overlap two services.
Ofcom will also be considering instances of 'slamming', which occurs where consumers are switched to another provider without their consent. It will also investigate 'erroneous transfers' that include problems such as the wrong mobile phone number being switched.
The regulator said that the number of consumers considering a switch, comparing providers and actually switching have all declined recently.
Switching rates for mobile fell from 9% to 6% between 2013 and 2014.
"Concerns that a switch may be difficult may also play a part in deterring some consumers who have not switched from engaging in the process," said Ofcom.
Richard Neudegg, regulation expert at uSwitch.com, added: "It is frustrating that it remains unnecessarily difficult and time consuming to swap mobile providers when 93% of us now own mobile phones.
"It's about time all of the telecoms sector fell in line with other industries, where the provider you're moving to handles the switch, rather than the provider you're leaving."
He also said: "However, mobile is just one part of the bigger picture. Ofcom made changes to switching broadband in June, which improved the experience for some customers. However, these didn't apply to mobile, pay TV or Virgin Media's broadband network, so there is still plenty of room to shake things up there too."
In June, switching broadband provider was made easier, when it became no longer necessary to get a MAC code from your existing supplier in order to leave.
That process was deemed "confusing" and "time consuming" for the customer and could deter them from moving to a better deal, said Ofcom.
The move should mean customers switching between the likes of BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk will have a "simpler and smoother" experience, it added.
Stands for either Migration Authorisation Code or Migration Access Code and is a 17-19 digit alphanumeric code used when switching broadband providers and allows broadband customers to switch between providers with minimal, if any, disruption to broadband service. A MAC code is like a serial number used to identify your broadband connection within the local exchange. If you’re switching provider and it has this code, it can simply move your connection over to its service. Customers apply to their current provider that will issue the unique MAC code, which is then given to the new provider, but it’s very likely the new provider will do this on the customer’s behalf.