Competitive communications markets are more likely to work well for consumers when it is quick and easy to switch between providers.
This consultation is the first step in our review of the switching processes in UK communications markets. This is a strategic review in that we look at switching in a number of sectors – fixed and mobile telecommunications, broadband and pay TV – to identify similarities and common challenges that arise in making sure that the process is easy and reliable.
Switching between communications providers is often complex, and involves steps that must be coordinated between different providers in ways that do not arise in other consumer markets. The way consumers switch providers today varies: sometimes, these processes have been developed by industry; some have been designed with input from Ofcom (or Oftel). There are different processes, even for the same services, often with very different features and experiences for consumers.
Markets are changing, with more bundled services offered. The risk is that with the boundaries between services becoming less clear, and without any strategic oversight, consumers face confusion and avoidable inconvenience and that the competitive process is harmed.
In this review, we will consider whether the current approach delivers good consumer and competition outcomes. Our aim is to make switching work more quickly, cheaply and easily for consumers and, in so doing, make competition work more effectively, for single and bundled services. This Strategic Review of Consumer Switching (‘the Review’) is one of our priority areas of work as set out in our Annual Plan 2010-11.
The Review is focused on two key areas. Firstly, we want to ensure that an individual consumer’s experience of switching is easy and hassle free, both now and in the future. Secondly, we want to ensure that switching processes do not get in the way of providers competing vigorously with each other to deliver benefits to all consumers in terms of lower prices, greater choice and innovation and value for money.
This consultation document seeks to: