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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??

Phase out SIM locking. Unlocking gives more problems than anything else in the switch procedure.

Gideon says:
24 September 2015

Horrendous contract cancellation fees are the main thing that stop me switching, even though I’m pretty unhappy with my current provider

Giff Gaff is a Which top provider yet once you are in you cannot get out. I cannot change my credit card nor cancel my contract. I am stuck for life. Nor can you speak to a person you have to get help from other users. how this be a top provider?

GiffGaff is a user supported service. You have to log into your account and use the forums to sort out any problems. There is no other support as that would cost money and it would put up costs which will then be passed on to users. You can change your credit card (payment) details any time you like by logging into your account.

If you want to move to another provider, just remove the GiffGaff sim and don’t use it. After 6 months you will receive an email asking if you want to keep the number or not. If you don’t acknowledge, the number is automatically recycled.

So what exactly is your problem with GiffGaff?

The customer physically gives his particulars to the new agent who contacts the present agent informing them to close Mr/s X. account The new agent texts you informing you the transaction has taken place,and you have an emergency balance of £5 until you top up again with them (the new agent)

Ian. (N. Wales) says:
28 September 2015

I think that the biggest drawback to easy switching of provider is the lack of universal access to all transmitters. If all providers could use the best available signal in all parts of the country they would lose out in some places but gain in others. I would love to leave Vodafone, but where I live it is the only useable signal.

John says:
23 March 2016

With EE. Missold contract which didn’t do what was expected (same deal throughout Europe). Complained many times and was promised calls back but nobody called. Emailed without reply and wrote without reply. Case now with Ombudsman: it is now 7 months on. Finally,they have switched me to PAYG and I will leave when the credit given runs out. I refused to ring them after the first few calls and would hope that the case is a no brainer for the Ombudsman. Have been with Orange /EE for many years but enough is enough.

Hi all, an update for you. In a win for our Unlock Better Mobile Deals campaign, Ofcom has announced plans to overhaul mobile phone switching. With almost six million mobile users having never switched due to concerns about the current process, it’s time for change.

Ofcom has outlined two alternative options to make switching your mobile provider quicker and simpler.

First up is Ofcom’s preferred option and also the option we’ve been campaigning for over the years, with the backing of more than 75,000 supporters. This option is something called ‘gaining provider-led’ switching. This simply means that the responsibility of the switch is entirely in the hands of your new provider. Just like when switching bank or energy supplier, you won’t need to contact your existing provider to swap mobile providers.

Ofcom’s second option is to make it easier to take your mobile number with you. This would mean that you’d be able to request your ‘PAC’ code by text message or online.

Sharon White, Ofcom’s chief executive, said:

‘It is unacceptable for people to be missing out on better mobile deals because they fear the hassle of switching, or are put off having had a poor experience in the past.

‘We want mobile customers to benefit from speedier, simpler switching, making it easier for them to vote with their feet and take advantage of choice in the market.’

Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:

‘It needs to be much simpler for people to switch mobile providers with the company gaining the customer leading the process. Ofcom has been promising action on this issue for some time and this change must now be brought in without delay.’

Ofcom is now consulting on the two options and will make its final decision this autumn.

George says:
24 March 2016

My limited experience of dealing with OFCOM, leads me to believe that they are pretty much a toothless-Tiger!

Surely, a regulator is there to regulate – not merely suggest? Hell, I can suggest – probably with a similar outcome too!

And another thing; how come they (phone companies) can set up your new phone number virtually instantly, but changing to another SIM etc takes several days? Its a rip-off!

Just moved from EE poor reception areas and appalling support services from ther overseas call centres.
Had been with them since the days of T Mobile when they had UK call centres and excellent services.

Now on Giff Gaff easy to transfer, low cost and all run via computer.
Excellent so far and better for low users.
On a £7.50 pm tarriff at present.