/ Technology

Help make switching broadband and phone provider hassle-free

If moving between broadband and phone services is a pain, how can there be healthy competition between providers? We want the switching process to be effortless, and we need your views to make it happen.

If you spot a broadband service you want to switch to, and you’re not under a contract, you’d like to think this wouldn’t be too much hassle.

Unfortunately, it’s often not as easy as you’d hope, which is why Ofcom has been undertaking a massive review of how switching works in communications services.

A frustrating process

At the moment switching provider is tiresome. For example, Ofcom says that a fifth of broadband switchers lose their service for about a week. Clearly that’s not a good customer experience. And in our own regular broadband survey, one in 10 thought the switching process was too slow.

This is why I’m very excited to finally see the publication of Ofcom’s switching consultation today. It’s proposing a number of options that could replace the current system. And I can see how it’s taken some time to put this together – it covers everything from what consumers will need to do to switch, as well as the technical processes providers would have to implement to make this happen.

It’s certainly no small task trying to re-write the book on telecoms switching. It’s also going to be no small task getting the industry to agree to it…

Making it easier to switch

Ofcom’s preferred option is one we’re in favour with here at Which? – moving to a ‘gaining provider led’ (GPL) process. This means you’d just have to call the provider you want to switch to, rather than having to go back and get details from the one you want to leave.

You can see why some providers, especially those wanting to retain their customer base, would be unhappy with this as they wouldn’t have an opportunity to convince them to stay.

Although we often hear anecdotally that customers get offered discounts when they do call up their existing provider, we’d hope that the GPL process would mean competitive deals will be offered to all customers upfront, rather than just the ones wanting to leave.

Switching is something we need to get right. And when things change, we’ll all need to be educated as to what to do. It also needs to be as future-proof as possible – we can’t predict the future but we can try to create a system that should work with new technologies and services.

We’ll be going through the options in detail over the 10-week consultation period and we’ll work with Ofcom to ensure this frustrating process is improved. So if you’ve had problems switching, let us know and we’ll feed this back to Ofcom.

There’s still a long hard mountain to climb, but this is hopefully the first step towards a much better system.

Caitlin says:
9 February 2012

Switching seems to be a nightmare and is even more complicated with bundled contracts. My flatmate moved out and moved the internet/phone package to her new address, meaning that the internet provider disconnected our phone line. This was not presented as an optional decision. I then needed to get a new internet package, which meant having to pay £80 to have a phone line reconnected. We live in an area that can’t get cable so we had no choice but to have a landline connected. We chose an O2 package that includes internet and phone line rental (although we don’t even have nor use a landline), however O2 uses BT Open Reach engineers to connect phone lines. It took over a month and 3 days off work sitting in waiting for engineers who didn’t turn up before we finally got internet. O2 accused us of lying after the engineer didn’t turn up for the second time. I was so infuriated with them that I told them that I wanted to cancel the whole connection and go elsewhere, however they told me that all companies are dependent on Open Reach for phone line connection and so I’d be stuck waiting for them regardless. It’s beyond infuriating, especially for us renters who move somewhat regularly.

So many people now only have the land line because they want internet.

It is much easier if you are sharing to just use your own mobile.

I do wish that people would stop trying to sell everything as the cheapest option.

I want best value – that includes not wasting my time. Time is more valuable than money.

I switched ISPs 3 times in the last few years – always been painless with internet down for no more than 30 minutes.
However with LLU ( unbundled) phone packages switching back to a BTw supplier can be expensive and problematic.
Is this purely down to logistics at the exchange or resource backlogs at the phone companies ?

SusieQ says:
10 February 2012

Have been trying to switch for over a year, but with no success. I always get offered a discount of £5 and this is in place until July 2012. It’s very hard to get the MAC code, but as the £5 discount makes the broadband and telephone cost reasonable, then I figure I’ll stick with it until the £5 is removed. I also get free calls to USA, which is another plus for me from my current provider.

John D Limbert says:
13 February 2012

I am probably the wrong person to get involved, as every thing I touch goes up in a puff of smoke: – however, moved from tiscali (talk-talk) as they were dyslexic when adding up my account. So I tried Utility Warehouse, not sure how long they were attempting to connect me but they gave me up as a bad job! Tried Plus net who did eventually connect me after approx three weeks, that is when I thought retreat is a better part of valor even though it cost me £100. Then I thought lines of least resistance and went to BT, not a problem went without a hitch.

Countdown says:
14 February 2012

Recently switched from all talk talk (and no action) back to BT and it went very well for me.
No MAC code was needed because it was BT I was moving to. At 7.30am on the appointed day I lost my phone service, but it was back on by 9am. The broadband service took a little longer but was operational by mid afternoon.
Moved to BT option 3 to ensure I was not traffic managed because talk talk were not only managing traffic (but denied it) but were also blocking mobile devices running apple operating systems more than windows devices.
In my view talk talk are so bad they should have their telecoms licenses confiscated. They lie to you then tell you the problem is your router and offer to give you one if you extend your contract. Over my dead body! The only people at talk talk who know what they are doing are the user/service forums which are staffed by ex tiscali people.
Also, broadband speeds immediately jumped from about 3mb/s to over 6mb/s and it’s at that speed consistently, whereas talk talk were up and down like a yo yo.
My neighbour also moved from Talk talk 8 weeks after me, and he had an absolute nightmare with talk talk with him being lied to on a regulAr basis.
Finally with BT his experience took slightly longer with phone service off for 4 hrs and broadband service fully on by later in the evening of the appointed day. He had the TV package as well so it might be the reason he took longer to get online.

Lynne says:
14 February 2012

Switched both broadband and phone from BT to o2 with absolutely no hassle at all. I was sent a text to use the new router and was told that the phone line was active and it’s been fine ever since – that was 2 years ago!

Chrisnr says:
27 April 2012

I have switched twice in the last year and a half. We started with BT Broadband, but the traffic management and overloading of their network made browsing or downloading in the evening almost impossible. As I was on Orange as a mobile customer, I thought would risk their service because the price was so cheap. My mistake. The service was so awful that when carrying out speed testing the upstream speed was actually faster than the download speed. After 3 weeks of this I went through the support and reached 3rd level who eventually agreed to cancel without charging a fee. I then signed with Zen as my brother always said nothing but good things about them. The process both times involved less than 30 minutes downtime on the internet.

Yes Zen does cost us £25.50 per month, but the helpdesk are in Lancashire, the service works at full speed all the time, when I rang up about a technical issue it was resolved immediately to me satisfaction, and I haven’t had to call them again, as it just works. I have now migrated to Zen talk and saved a bit on the line rental which is great as the line is really only there for the internet. We only use the phone for 0844 and 0871 numbers that are so expensive to call from a mobile.


I rang John Lewis/Waitrose this morning for a mac code as I want to switch to BT Infinity. I thought they’d be able to generate it immediately (as my otherwise useless mobile phone provider had) …but no it would appear that the usual quality is sadly lacking at this end game stage. Their email reply tells me my code will be only be available on 4 October – that is to say the full five working days after it was requested. Pity. I would have recommended them – until now.

[If a major mobile phone provider can call one up in store in minutes how come it takes John Lewis – a national retailer normally known for decent customer care – a full 5 days…]

Means I can’t order my Infinity until this time next week… a full week later.

JL – you disappoint me

As a relative newcomer to the internet I phoned Sky (ex O2) yesterday to try and get a MAC to switch my broadband to Plusnet. I succeeded only in blowing my top when, instead of arranging the issue of the MAC, Sky arranged closure of my account in 7 days and said this action could not be revoked. Legal requirements and reasonable behaviour mean nothing to Sky who have made things as difficult as possible for me. Have since complained to Sky, contacted the Ombudsman and Ofcom, but so far without success.

Jules says:
26 February 2019

Two hours after switching my broadband supplier from Plusnet to BT, my broadband and phone line were shut down completely leaving me with nothing until my new contract begins in three weeks. Is this even legal and has it happened to anyone else?