Ofcom today proposed a set of measures to make changing broadband and landline providers simpler and more reliable, while protecting consumers from being switched without their knowledge or consent.
Enabling consumers to switch providers easily is important to ensure they can choose the broadband or telephone service that best suits their needs. But Ofcom's research shows that consumers can face a number of problems when changing their service provider.
Ofcom analysis shows that one in five consumers switching their broadband lost their service for about a week*. And approximately 130,000 households have faced problems with the wrong telephone line being taken over during the switching process or when moving house during a twelve month period**.
An estimated 520,000 households had their landline or broadband services 'slammed' (switched without their consent) in the last year**.
Ofcom has proposed a number of options to help consumers change supplier.
Ofcom's preferred option is a process where the new provider would manage the switching process, including the transfer of services from the old provider. To guard against slamming, the switch would be checked and verified by an independent third party.
Ofcom's proposals are designed to benefit consumers in a number of ways by:
Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards said: "Smooth switching processes are essential to ensure that consumers can change providers with confidence. Many people think that the current systems are too difficult and unreliable which is why we have made it one of our priorities to tackle this problem.
"Ofcom has improved consumer information on broadband speeds and enhanced competition in the market but it is also essential that people are able to switch easily to exercise their choice. Today's proposals are designed to make the process easier, more reliable and safe from slamming. We believe that the proposals would improve consumers' experience of switching and ensure that they continue to benefit from competition."
Ofcom's switching consultation and plain English guide can be found here.
Effective choice is important for consumers, and Ofcom's work on switching is one way in which it is working to ensure that consumers can exercise choice. Ofcom is also committed to ensuring consumers have access to information to help them choose effectively, and has accredited a number of online price comparison calculators that help consumers to select the best deal for them.
The Ofcom price accreditation scheme logo is awarded to websites that have had their price comparison services put through a rigorous independent audit. The audit checks whether the information provided to consumers is accessible, accurate, transparent, comprehensive and up to date.
Homephone Choices compares landline services, Simplifydigital and Cable.co.uk compares landline and broadband services, while Broadband Choices and Broadband.co.uk compare broadband services.
1. *The research used in this analysis interviewed consumers that had changed provider between March 2010 and March 2011. ** Survey conducted in the first week of September 2011.
2. Ofcom's third party validation switching option is a similar approach that is used in the US and Ireland.
3. Ofcom research reveals that UK consumers find switching other services - such as utilities or insurance - easier than signing up to a new broadband provider. Some 23% of those switching a bundle of communications services during the last 12 months thought that switching was difficult, compared with 4% for car insurance or gas supplier.
4. Ofcom's proposals are not intended to apply to cable customers at the moment but it intends to consider this after it has concluded this part of its switching review.
5. Over time, various switching processes have been developed for different communications services:
6. Research that Ofcom published in September 2010, found that nearly half (45%) of consumers with broadband or a landline think that switching communications provider is too much hassle.
7. Under section 3 (1) of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a duty to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets where appropriate by promoting competition.