Numbers should be portable, insists Reding
One-day porting plea
As the EU finalises the demands it's going to make of mobile phone operators in Europe, Viviane Reding has posted a passionate video arguing for 24-hour number portability across Europe.
Unusually, it's not the UK that comes off worst this time around. The UK's few days pale into insignificance when compared to the 38 days that punters in Poland have to wait to port a phone number, while Italians have to wait more than two weeks to get a number transferred between networks.
The arguments revolve around the technical logistics of transferring numbers quickly, as well as the necessity of controlling slamming - dodgy companies transferring customers without approval. It also doesn't help if the regulator screws up the paperwork.
Reding makes the point that users in Hong Kong can move their number in two hours, but such a tight timescale would make it difficult to prevent slamming in an industry where the practice is already rife, so a balance needs to be established.
Reding's video explains how the EU takes credit for the idea of number portability, and the idea is indeed enshrined in EU legislation; but the existing rules don't put a time limit on the process - which is what Viviane is trying to change. ®
The numbers game
I was fortunate when I bought a telephone that I also chose and bought the associated number. I do not know whether this practise is still followed but it saved me a whole load of trouble latterly when changing handsets.
The issue will be that the likes of Vodafone, Orange et al will then be forced to have decent, reliable systems. The overhead for them to constantly update the routing within the networks would be considerably increased.
How do you think when you dial from your BT landline, the network knows where to route the call ? it relies on the networks to constantly "share" data based upon all the number ranges (something that was much much easier when say all orange numbers started 0(7)973 back in the old days - each network would have known to terminate that call at Orange.
The same thing happens when say O2 release a new number range, sometimes you cant call it for a few hours from some networks as the routing hasnt been updated. Classic example when Ofcom started with the new 03 number ranges - these werent available from Virgin media landlines for 3 days after companies started using them
This *is* technically possible without a doubt, but it will take the network operators (cellular AND fixed line) to pull their finger out and be far more collaborative with each other.
The biggest issue with number porting is the idea that once you have ported a number into an account the number is then permanently associated with that account and cannot be ported out again without cancelling the account.
port in = ok
port out = not ok
This is done deliberately to prevent consumers punishing operators for bad service or overcharging. I have had this issue with O2 when they were looking after my personal account and also with the business account that I manage for our company. If you want to move the number elsewhere then you must pay all of the outstanding monthly payments in one lump sum. The fact that you must do this prevents many unhappy customers moving to a different supplier before the contract end-date. Now that we have contracts lasting up to 18 months (or 3 years for my business account) you can be stuck with a bad operator for a long time. Consumers are usually protected from this kind of entrapment but not so in mobile phone world.
In my case I would have gladly separated out 'my' mobile phone number and ported it over to a new contract with a different supplier while continuing to honour my agreement with O2. In other words, I would deprive them of any additional profit over and above what I was contracted to pay and not reward them for poor performance by paying any more than the basic monthly charge as agreed in my contract. I would pay the monthly charge but take my number elsewhere. A new number would go onto my existing account - same as when you start a new account they give you a new number before porting in your regular number.
Now, here's the twist...
I was so frustrated with O2 and not prepared to be treated like a fool so I cancelled my account, ported my number to a different provider and then didn't immediately pay the outstanding lump sum. Instead, I waited for them to talk to me and then I arranged a monthly payment plan so I could afford to pay off the outstanding contract fees.... aprox £450 pounds!
O2 then stained my credit record - I checked with Equifax and they put a warning onto my public credit history file - so much for fair play eh...! Contacted O2 to explain that it was unfair to say that I was not paying when I was paying and could they correct this mistake. O2's response, "sorry, we can't do anything about it" - "computer says no" = customer lost for life - never going back or every recommending them and will be warning people about them whenever possible. Equifax have added an explanation to my credit history file asking new creditors to ignore what O2 put on my record. They have also contacted O2 separately and asked them to remove it - they got a similar response to what I received.
So in summary - porting time isn't as important as true number portability. That's how I feel anyway.