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.