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Switching phone and internet providers needs to be made a lot easier if consumers and businesses are to benefit from increased competition in the UK's telco sector.

Regulator Ofcom is due to kick-off a consultation before the end of the year to find out how switching suppliers could be made hassle-free. El Reg understands that Ofcom doesn't have a firm set of proposals it wants to impose on the industry. Instead, it is seeking input from all sides to develop a plan that would enable consumers to benefit from increased competition.

The reason appears simple enough. The cost of telecoms services is falling while operators are increasingly offering more tempting add-ons. With the advent of broadband telephony, video on demand and a whole range of other services consumers are likely to be tempted more and more to shop around.

This has been made easier, in part, by the introduction of wholesale line rental (WLR) for punters wanting the cost of their phone on a single bill. Meanwhile, the development of local loop unbundling (LLU) has already seen prices fall and speeds increased to more than 20 meg.

Measures introduced by Ofcom over the last couple of years are beginning to pay off, giving rival operators a real chance to compete with BT's dominance of the fixed line sector.

But here's the snag. All this is wasted if punters aren't able to sign up to these new and exciting offers quickly, easily and with the minimum of fuss. Hence the consultation.

While it might be great to be able to switch your telecoms broadband supplier with just a phone call, make it too easy and the system will almost certainly be abused by rogue operators who switch punters without getting their consent first.

Ofcom will have to ensure that making it easy for consumers to get the best deal does not open the door to slammers. ®

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