You’ve come to the end of your contract and want to move to a new deal on a different network. All you need to do is give your provider a call to request your PAC code and you’re ready to go, or is it not so simple?
When you complete your mobile phone contract and want to change provider, you have to ask for your porting authorisation code (otherwise known as a PAC code) to take your existing phone number with you.
If you want to use the same handset, you may have to make an explicit request and pay for an unlocking code, as many handsets are locked to the original network.
The unlocking process
The cost of unlocking your phone can be between £15 and £20, but on some networks where you’ve had your handset for a while it may be free. Some Which? members have been in touch to complain about these unexpected charges and feel they are a deliberate barrier put in place by the networks to put people off leaving.
The information provided online by the providers on handset unlocking is patchy at best. From the comments we have received it seems that although providers will speedily provide you with a PAC code, they are unlikely to offer the unlocking service unless you specifically ask for it. This not only seems a little unhelpful, but also makes the switching process take longer.
We have also received complaints about how long it takes to get a handset unlocked once you have managed to make the request. One customer reports waiting almost three months for an unlock code from Orange, and others have been left tied to their old provider for up to two months following their initial request. Is this essentially a hostage situation?
What does Ofcom have to say?
Ofcom takes a firm stance on the provision of PAC codes, stating that they should be provided immediately over the phone or within a maximum of two hours by text. However, when it comes to mobile unlocking there are currently no specifications surrounding the process or the fees providers can charge – although Ofcom has said this is an issue it’s currently considering.
Are you happy to trade off having access to any network on your phone if it means that you can walk out of the store with a flashy handset? Perhaps you would rather pay more to have more flexibility?
What have been your experiences when moving between providers and what do you think needs to change when it comes to mobile unlocking?