New plans for seamless broadband switching

03 February 2021

Residential broadband and home phone customers would benefit from quicker, simpler and more reliable switching, under Ofcom plans to introduce a new ‘one touch’ process.

Following an Ofcom rule change in 2015, customers switching between providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk on Openreach’s copper network can already follow a process where their new provider manages the switch. But others are still left facing extra hassle to switch.

Customers switching between different networks or technologies – for example, from a provider using the Openreach copper network to one using CityFibre’s, or from Virgin Media to Hyperoptic – currently need to contact both their existing and new provider to co-ordinate the switch. This includes trying to make sure there is no gap between the old service ending and the new one starting.

New Ofcom research shows that four in ten people who decide against switching are put off by the hassle of needing to contact more than one provider. A similar number are put off switching as they think it will be too time-consuming. And of those who do switch, nearly a quarter who contact their current provider face unwanted attempts to persuade them to stay.

In October 2020 we put in place new rules that include requiring the new broadband provider to take the lead in managing the switch, regardless of whether the customer is moving between different networks, or to a full-fibre service on the same network.

The new ‘one touch’ process would make it easier for all residential broadband customers to take advantage of the range of deals available in the market. Our changes will also make it quicker to switch – in as little as one day if technically possible.

This follows new rules introduced in 2019 that enable mobile customers to switch operator by simply sending a free text message.

How the new 'one touch' switching process would work

We looked at different options, proposed by industry, for how these new rules should be implemented. Our preferred approach is to introduce a new ‘one touch’ switching process for all residential landline and broadband customers.

Under this process:

  • a customer would contact their chosen new provider and give their details;
  • the customer would then automatically receive important information from their current provider, such as any early contract termination charges they might have to pay, and how the switch could affect other services the customer has with the company; and
  • if the customer wants to go ahead, the new provider would then manage the switch.
Under One Touch Switch, a customer contacts their chosen new provider and provides their details. The current provider automatically gives the customer switching information (for example early termination charges, the impact of the switch on other services). If they decide they want to go ahead, they confirm this with their new provider. The new provider then manages the switch.
Under One Touch Switch, a customer contacts their chosen new provider and provides their details. The current provider automatically gives the customer switching information (for example early termination charges, the impact of the switch on other services). If they decide they want to go ahead, they confirm this with their new provider. The new provider then manages the switch.

There are lots of different offers out there from a wide range of broadband and landline providers. And we want to make it even easier for people to get a better deal or upgrade to a faster, more reliable service.

We know some customers can be put off by the hassle of having to deal with more than one provider when trying to switch. So, our proposals today aim to make the process as seamless as possible, for everyone.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's Networks and Communications Group Director

Next steps

We are consulting on today’s proposals until 31 March 2021, and aim to publish our decision in the summer. Providers will need to make significant changes to their systems and processes. This means the new rules will come into force in December 2022.

  1. Two options were presented by industry – a ‘One Touch Switch’ process (our preferred approach), and a ‘Code to Switch’ process:
Under Code to Switch, a customer must first contact their current provider by app, online or phone to get information about the implications of switching as well as a switching code. If they decide they want to go ahead with the switch after considering the switching information, they contact the new provider and give them the switching code. The new provider then manages the switch.Under Code to Switch, a customer must first contact their current provider by app, online or phone to get information about the implications of switching as well as a switching code. If they decide they want to go ahead with the switch after considering the switching information, they contact the new provider and give them the switching code. The new provider then manages the switch.