Consumer Switching

20 December 2013

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.

Next steps

1.7 We set out in our August 2013 Document that our decision on GPL NoT+ is the first stage in a two stage process.

1.8 This first stage includes implementation of changes required to harmonise to GPL NoT+. In order to achieve this, we will manage a programme of work through an industry working group, chaired by Ofcom and supported by the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA).

1.9 We are convening the first industry working group meeting on 22 January 2014, to be chaired by Ofcom and supported by the OTA. This meeting will begin the industry process for implementation of the harmonised switching process. Through this group we will also set out the interim milestones to be met to ensure that CPs are able to complete the necessary development work within the implementation period. Please email by Friday 17 January 2014 to register your interest in attending this meeting.

1.10 Our second stage will consider whether there are further changes required in relation to the Openreach network, in particular to address the issue of erroneous transfers. We will also consider whether it would be appropriate to extend the switching processes to include other technologies and networks. We plan to publish details and timelines for carrying out further work in this area in spring 2014.