Switch mobile provider with a free text

19 December 2017

Mobile customers will be able to switch provider by simply sending a free text message, under major reforms announced by Ofcom today.

Around two in five mobile switchers (38%) – 2.5 million people – say they experienced at least one major problem when switching, while seven in ten encountered at least some difficulty.

One of the biggest hurdles in changing provider is having to speak to your current provider, and facing unwanted attempts to persuade you to stay. Ofcom’s changes, which come into effect in 18 months’ time, will give customers control over contact with their existing provider.

The new rules will make it quicker and easier for people and businesses to leave their mobile company. This is how Ofcom’s new ‘text-to-switch’ process will work:

Image showing steps to switch via text. Step 1: Customer requests the switching code by texting a free number. Step 2: Customer receives the code along with important account details, like any outstanding charges owed. Step 3: When the customer is ready to switch, they give the code their new provider. Step 4: Service is switched within one working day. The old service ends on the same day, and there are no notice period charges to pay.

Under Ofcom’s new rules, mobile providers will also be banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. This will put an end to people paying for old and new services at the same time – saving UK mobile customers around £10m in total each year.

Bringing in these reforms means mobile operators will need to make a number of changes to their systems, and require coordination between mobile companies. For example, industry will need to set up the new short codes for people to text, and the technology to send instant automated responses to switching requests, as well as new billing arrangements to end notice-period double payments.

So, there will be an 18-month implementation period before this comes into effect, meaning providers must comply by no later than 1 July 2019.

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.”

How it will work

In future, you can simply request a unique switching code, either by text or online, to pass on to your new provider – who must then arrange for the switch to complete within one working day.

You will text one of two memorable short codes, depending on whether or not you wish to keep your existing mobile telephone number. All mobile providers will have to use the same short codes.

Your existing provider must immediately respond by text – with either a ‘porting authorisation code’ (PAC) if you wish to keep their phone number, or a cancellation code if you want a new number. For businesses, they will get this code within two working days.

Because this will be quick and easy, customers could request their code while looking for a new deal – for example, while on the phone to a new provider, or in store.

The provider’s reply must also include important information about any early termination charges, outstanding handset costs, or pay-as-you-go credit balances.

The unique switching code will be valid for 30 days. You will be able to pass the code on to your new provider when you place an order for the new service, without the need for any further conversation.

Providers will also have to publish and promote clear guidance to help customers follow the new process and make informed switching decisions.