People and businesses have the right, by law, to keep their telephone numbers regardless of who they choose as their phone company. Ofcom’s rules mean all telecoms providers must let customers take their telephone number with them when they switch providers. This process is known as ‘number porting’.
These are important rules, as they protect people from the inconvenience and cost of having to change their phone number. It’s particularly important for businesses, who would face significant costs and other brand or reputational issues if they had to change their phone number. This could include anything from having to change marketing materials, to potentially losing business from customers who try to call on the old number.
Our rules also make it easier for people to switch, which ensures healthy competition between phone providers. If a customer experiences problems with porting their number, this might put them off switching provider in future, which can harm competition.
So it’s important phone companies know they can’t get away with making it difficult for customers to keep their phone numbers when switching. They should know that if they do, we’ll take firm action against them.
Today, we fined a telecoms provider called Cloud M £50,000 for refusing to let one of its customers – a small business – take their phone number with them when they wanted to switch to another provider.
Telecoms companies must compensate customers if they break our number porting rules. Cloud M did not do this, so in addition to the £50,000 fine we also requiring the company to pay £1,000 to its customer.
Similarly, earlier this year we fined another phone provider called Gateway Telecom £20,000 for flouting our rules, and also told it to pay £1,000 compensation.
These are not large telecoms companies, so these were significant fines. Our message is clear to the whole industry – we won’t tolerate anyone acting outside the law.
But we’re not just waiting for problems to arise before taking action. We have put the telecoms industry on notice, and told them to develop a process to override attempts to unlawfully block or hinder customers from taking their number with them.