Switching Statement - A statement and consultation on the processes for switching fixed voice and broadband providers on the Openreach copper network

  • Start: 08 August 2013
  • Status: Closed
  • End: 04 October 2013

Well-functioning communications markets require effective switching processes. The ability to switch Communications Providers (‘CPs’) allows consumers to exercise choice, purchase the service or combination of services which best meet their needs, and switch away if they are dissatisfied with a provider. Conversely, ineffective processes constrain consumer choice, and hence can also be harmful to competition, investment and market entry.

Ofcom has a principal duty to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition. The interests of consumers in relation to switching processes mainly concern their experience of switching, including the ability to switch quickly and conveniently, to switch without loss of service, to be made aware of the implication of their decision to switch and to be protected from being switched against their will. In this process we are therefore primarily concerned with issues directly affecting consumers, but we also consider implications for competition.

We have looked at the processes used for switching between providers on the Openreach copper network(-1-). Currently there are a number of different processes for switching services, involving complex technical coordination amongst gaining providers, losing providers and Openreach. To a large extent, these systems have evolved within industry, with some aspects subject to regulation under Ofcom’s General Conditions (‘GCs’).

We have prioritised our work on the Openreach copper network as we identified this as the area of greatest potential consumer harm and because it supports the largest number of switches for fixed voice and broadband services.

Consumer Switching - A statement and consultation on the processes for switching fixed voice and broadband providers on the Openreach copper network PDF, 3.8 MB

Consumer Switching Supporting Calculations

It has been brought to our attention that in the main document and Annex 1 published on 8th August we stated that the deadline for responses was the 2nd October. However, in the notification on changes to general conditions we stated the deadline for sending representations about the proposals was the 4th October. Please note we will accept consultation responses until 5pm on 4th October. We have updated the consultation document to reflect this change.

Statement published 20|12|13

1.1 In August 2013 we decided that all switches for fixed voice and/or broadband services over the Openreach network would be harmonised to a single Gaining Provider Led (GPL) model using the existing Notification of Transfer (NoT) process ('the August 2013 Document'). Among other things, this will mean the removal of the current Losing Provider Led (LPL) based Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) process for broadband switching. At the same time, we consulted on five enhancements intended to improve the NoT process (a solution we termed 'GPL NoT+').

1.2 In this document we set out our decisions in relation to these enhancements and the changes to the General Conditions ('GCs') required to bring harmonisation into effect, having taken into account stakeholder consultation responses and additional new evidence. This document must therefore be read in conjunction with the August 2013 Document.

1.3 Ofcom began a review of consumer switching processes in 2010. We decided to prioritise our work on the switches involving fixed voice and broadband services made over the Openreach copper network.

1.4 Most switches for fixed voice services currently use a GPL NoT process, under which a consumer wishing to switch provider need only contact the provider to whose service they wish to switch. Broadband switches either use the NoT process, or require the consumer to contact the provider they are leaving in order to obtain a MAC which enables the switch to take place.

1.5 In summary, we have decided to implement all five of the enhancements in substantially the same form as we consulted on them, but we have made some amendments following stakeholder comment and we provide further clarification in certain areas. These enhancements should help consumers change landline and broadband providers with greater ease, confidence and convenience. We summarise our decisions, including the changes we have made to our proposals as set out in our August 2013 Document, as follows:

Proposed GPL NoT enhancement set out in the August 2013 Document and the issue it seeks to addressOur conclusion set out in this Statement

The Gaining provider (GP) must obtain and store for 12 months a clear record of consent to switch from the consumer.

This aims to reduce the incidence of slamming by enhancing our enforcement capabilities.

No change to the August proposal.
The Losing Provider (LP) must provide better information in the Notification of Transfer letter to the end customer regarding the implications of switching. This letter must include:

- Precise information on any early termination charges payable.
- A list of all communications services that will be transferred, all those that will be directly or indirectly affected by the transfer, and all those which the provider reasonably expects to remain unaffected by the transfer.
- A statement that the consumer is not required to contact the LP to cancel the contract in order for the service to be switched.

This aims at ensuring that consumers are fully informed about the service and financial implications of their decision to switch.

As under the August proposal, except:

- The requirement to state the time of the migration has been removed.
- The LP is required to list only those communications services which it provides that will be affected and unaffected by the transfer.

However, we encourage losing providers to list services provided by third parties which may also be affected by the transfer, where these are critical to security or health.

Minor amendments were made to the 'GCs' to clarify when the letter must be sent in paper or another durable format, and when it can be sent electronically.

Where a customer is switching to a bundle of fixed voice and broadband services provided by the same provider, the provider must co-ordinate the switches of the two services together in order to ensure minimal loss of service.

This aims to ensure that consumers can transfer multiple services without suffering a break in these services.

As under the August proposal, except that we have made minor amendments to the GC to clarify that the requirement applies where:

- a consumer submits a request to transfer the broadband and fixed voice services together (rather than separately); and
- there is functionality available to Communication Providers ('CPs') to enable them to make such a simultaneous transfer

We have also amended the requirement to the effect that where the GP does not have a direct relationship with Openreach, it shall ensure that an order is placed for the simultaneous transfer, where available, by the relevant intermediary.

Gaining providers should place an order to take over communications services at a new property only once they have an exact match for that address.

This aims to mitigate against consumers having their lines switched accidentally during house-moves. No change to the August proposal.

The LP must notifiy the end user, where a Working Line Takeover order has been placed.

This is for home move situations where a consumer wishes to transfer services to a new home. It aims to ensure that the consumer at the target property is informed about any plans for services to be changed to another provider at that address, and to allow the consumer to tell his or her own provider if the address has been targeted in error.

No change to the August proposal.

1.6 We have also concluded that it is appropriate for the GPL NoT+ requirements to be introduced in two phases:

  • A first phase: the implementation of changes to the GPL NoT process. These do not depend on Openreach systems development. This must be completed within nine months of the publication of this Statement.
  • A second phase, (conducted in parallel with the NoT+ implementation), the implementation of a harmonised GPL switching process. We believe it is appropriate to extend the timescale that we proposed for this from 12 months to 18 months. This phase includes discontinuation of the LPL MAC process for broadband switches.

Consumer Switching PDF, 1.0 MB

New requirements for the harmonisation of landline and broadband switching - update for industry June 2015

Switching Models: Comments on Stakeholder Responses - Prepared by: CSMG PDF, 430.2 KB

Additional clarifications arising from Industry meeting Thursday 20 March 2014 PDF, 40.6 KB

As set out in the Ofcom statement Consumer Switching - A statement on the GPL NoT+ elements (December 2013), new requirements for the harmonisation of landline and broadband switching to the Gaining Provider Led (GPL) Notice of Transfer (NoT) process are due to take effect from the 20 June 2015.

Therefore, you need to ensure that from 20 June 2015 you are able to comply with the new requirements.

The new requirements to harmonise switching processes are given in General Condition 22 (GC 22) of Ofcom’s General Conditions of Entitlement. GC 22 also requires Communications Providers to implement measures which enhance consumer protection where they switch provider. These measures are:

  • CPs to keep records of each consumer’s consent to switch, to protect against slamming;
  • CPs to use systems and processes to minimise loss of service when switching bundles;
  • LPs to provide better information to switching consumers on the implications of switching; and
  • CPs to take measures aimed at minimising risks of erroneous transfers in circumstances where a consumer is moving property and wishes their service also to be transferred, by mandating two elements of industry best practice:
  • that CPs place Working Line Takeover orders only where they have an exact match for the line; and
  • that LPs notify end-users that their line or service is due to be taken over.

Please ensure any systems and process changes are in place to allow you to fulfil these obligations. Functionality developed by key suppliers in the industry has been tested over recent months through a series of live tests. If you have any queries regarding the changes and how they may affect your business, please contact your upstream supplier(s) in the first instance.

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