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Is changing your mobile phone deal about to become easier?

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It should be easy to change your mobile phone provider to get a better deal. In practice though, we all know switching can be a real hassle. Now Ofcom says it plans to make the process much simpler and quicker.

The regulator has put forward ideas that it thinks will remove some of the barriers to switching.

They include making it easier to get hold of your PAC – the code that lets you keep hold of your existing number when you switch provider – by being sent it in a text.

This would save you having to phone your existing provider – as you do at the moment – waiting on hold, before being put through to cancellations and then transferred to the sales team where they try to persuade you to stay.

Another idea (and one that we called for as part of our Unlock Better Mobile Deals campaign) is a complete change in how switching works – in the same way Ofcom has already made it easier to switch provider for landline and the majority of broadband customers.

What would the new switching system be and why would it be better?

With the current system, once you’ve researched and found a better deal you have to contact your old provider to cancel your contract. At this point, the provider starts to offer you deals, which you haven’t seen as an existing customer.

If you do still choose to leave, the provider will often want 30 days notice, which means coordinating with your new provider so you don’t get double billed, or left without service.

Under Ofcom’s proposed new system, your new provider would arrange everything, including transferring your number and making sure the switch goes smoothly. You wouldn’t have to deal with your current provider at all.

And because it’s easier for you to move, mobile firms would have to start offering their best deals up front rather than hiding them away only for those with the patience to wrangle a better offer.

Will this be the end of haggling for a better deal?

Far from it. Moving to a system where your new provider handles the whole switch means your current provider will need to do more to keep your business.

In the European countries that already have this system, providers can still contact customers who’ve told them they want to switch to offer a deal to win them back. The only difference is they’re chasing you with the better deal, rather than you having to push them.

Ofcom’s consultation about its plans runs until 6 October.

Have you faced problems in switching mobile provider. What do you think of Ofcom’s ideas? Will this relieve some of the difficulties you face when trying to find a better deal?

UPDATE 16 September 2015 – customer service survey results

The results of our annual survey of the UK’s 100 biggest brands has revealed telecoms providers are rated among the lowest for customer service. The mobile providers Vodafone and EE languish towards the bottom of the rankings, with customer scores of 66% and 69% respectively.

Nearly nine in 10 people told us that poor service puts them off using a company again, so we want to know what would make it easier for you to switch.

As we’ve shared in the above conversation, Ofcom is consulting on new measures to improve switching mobile providers. Now we’d like you to vote on two of those options – which of the following Ofcom proposals will make switching easier for you?

Which of the following ideas would be most likely to help you switch mobile provider?

Only needing to contact my new mobile provider to manage the whole switching process (74%, 762 Votes)

Being able to text my mobile provider to immediately get a code to transfer my number to a new provider (24%, 245 Votes)

Other (please tell us in the comments) (2%, 23 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,030

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Seems an elegant idea. Which countries currently use this system?


Obtaining a PAC code from Giffgaff was easy, although not done by text. Log in to your account & request code. Giving a reason for leaving was optional. Response was quick.

John says:
1 August 2015

i was I my local Vodafone shop trying to get my sim only tariff changed to a lower one, after being asked loads of questions about why, what my usage was etc etc etc …. All of which I thought was non of their business I was told I could reduce it to a lower tariff, but that would mean another 12 month contract …. I said I didn’t want another 12 month contract and could I go onto pay as you go, and retain my number, he said I could but it would take 30 days …. Why? Same provider, same number??? ….. It’s just so they can get another month out of me! … I’ve been with Vodaphone for over 25 years, their customer service has never been so bad, if you call 191, you cannot even talk to a “person” …. Option after stupid option, none of which applied to my problem … My international dealing was cancelled for no apparent reason, then they took off my 3G … Again, for no reason that anyone in the shop could account for!!! Absolute rubbish … But thank Zhid I’m not with EE, apparently they are even worse!! Seems hard to believe, point is, there are major issues with all these mobile operators that need tough legislation and big penalties for them them ( payments to customers) if they don’t do their job properly …. About time the legislator grew more balls?


I have had exactly the same problems with Vodafone and am looking forward to ditching them in October after 20+ years of increasingly poor service. They just don’t seem to care anymore. They also continue debiting customers’ accounts with the full contract value after a contract expires and do not remind you that you can switch to a cheaper sim only tariff. This is verging on dishonesty.


At the end of the day it is no big deal to just end a contract and get a new phone number from a new supplier.

Anyone with a career will be quite used to the idea of their work phone number changing with time and how to deal with that.

As the above article and comments show, conditioning customers into the mindset where they think they can only switch after getting a PAC is an anti-competitive practice.


All services, including telecoms, TV, utilities and in particular insurances should be based on best quote first time by law, especially at renewal time. This would mean that everyone, rather than just the best hagglers, get a reasonable deal


In order to facilitate switching provider and to promote competition, we also need an end to SIM-locking, for 1-month contracts to become the norm and for subsidised handsets to be phased out. The goods and service should be separate and not interdependent, otherwise competition is impeded.


If the switching is left to only the new provider one wanted what safeguard would their be from ‘any other mobile’ company trying to switch the account without authority from the owner? Think of the switching of energy accounts by rouge salespeople??