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Ofcom investigates broadband providers for failing to implement simpler switching

Published: 4 April 2023
Last updated: 4 April 2023

Ofcom has today opened an industry-wide enforcement programme regarding the failed implementation of a new broadband switching process, as industry misses the deadline for launching the new service.

Today, new rules come into force requiring landline and broadband providers to operate the ‘One Touch Switch’ process for residential customers.

After extensive consultation with industry, Ofcom announced these rules a year and a half ago to make broadband switching quicker, easier and more reliable for many customers.

People can already switch between providers on Openreach’s network – such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk – by following a process where their new provider manages the switch.

But we also wanted to make it easy for customers moving between different networks or technologies – for example, from a provider using the Openreach network to one using CityFibre’s, or from Virgin Media to Hyperoptic. Under the new process, these customers would only have to contact their new provider to switch.

The rules also mean providers must compensate customers if things go wrong with the switch and they are left without a service for more than one working day. And customers should not have to pay any notice-period charges beyond the switch date.

In addition, our reforms were due to make it quicker to switch – just one day where technically possible – and ensure customers automatically receive important information from their current provider, including any early termination charges they may have to pay.

We have been closely monitoring industry’s progress in implementing the changes, and have been putting pressure on providers to meet their requirements by today’s deadline. Unfortunately, the new process has not been introduced on time.

As a result, we have launched an industry-wide enforcement programme, following this failure to meet a regulatory deadline.

Industry has had plenty of warning, plenty of time and plenty of support to get this done. It’s extremely disappointing and frustrating, and providers have let their customers down.

We take compliance with our rules very seriously, and have launched enforcement action to make sure companies get this up and running as quickly as possible.

Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom’s Director of Telecoms Consumer Protection

Nearly four years in the making

It is the responsibility of all providers to make sure they comply with our rules, including any changes we make to them. As in other sectors, the broadband industry – which is made up of hundreds of companies – has trade associations that help keep providers up to date with regulatory developments.

The new simpler switching process was first discussed in 2019, when we said we would be making it easier to switch broadband provider as part of implementing a broad package of European consumer protection rules. We knew this would take time to implement, so we asked industry (PDF, 146.3 KB) to start working together to develop this process straight away.

Later that year, we began publicly consulting (PDF, 2.1 MB) on introducing the new switching rules in the UK. In February 2021, we consulted on different options – proposed by industry – for a detailed switching process for residential customers, before confirming our preferred approach as the ‘One Touch Switch’ option.

In September 2021, we published our final decision. Given this would involve companies making significant changes, we set an extended implementation deadline of April 2023. Industry then established a company to help deliver the new process.

Despite extensive public consultation and engagement with industry over a number of years, providers have not met the deadline for launching the new service, and they are yet to give an indication of when they will be ready.

We will continue to work with industry to make sure the new switching process is delivered as soon as possible.

Additional switching rules now in place

From today, mobile providers will be required to provide better information for customers to help them make a more informed decision about a switch. This includes details about the impact of a switch on any other services they have with the existing provider.

In addition, it will now also be easier for customers to keep their phone number when switching landline or mobile provider. Under the new rules, customers can request to keep their old phone number for free, for up to a month after they cancelled their previous service.

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