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Ofcom: Make it easier for punters to switch ISPs

But could middleman plan jack up prices?

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Broadband and landline customers could soon find it a lot simpler to ditch one telco in favour of another, after Ofcom published its proposals on cutting the hassle out of switching providers for punters in the UK.

The communications watchdog said today that research showed that 520,000 households in Blighty in the past year had their landline or broadband services switched over without consent – a move known in the industry as "slamming".

It added that around 130,000 residential homes had problems with the wrong telephone number during the switching process or when moving house.

"Ofcom’s preferred option is a process where the new provider would manage the switching process, including the transfer of services from the old provider," the regulator said.

"To guard against slamming, the switch would be checked and verified by an independent third party."

The trend among telcos to bundle their services together has further complicated the switching process for consumers, Ofcom noted.

The watchdog found that 23 per cent of customers who switched a bundled service during the past 12 months found the whole process to be cumbersome.

“Smooth switching processes are essential to ensure that consumers can change providers with confidence. Many people think that the current systems are too difficult and unreliable which is why we have made it one of our priorities to tackle this problem," said Ofcom boss Ed Richards.

“Ofcom has improved consumer information on broadband speeds and enhanced competition in the market but it is also essential that people are able to switch easily to exercise their choice.

"Today’s proposals are designed to make the process easier, more reliable and safe from slamming. We believe that the proposals would improve consumers’ experience of switching and ensure that they continue to benefit from competition.”

It's not clear, however, if involving a third party verifier in such a process could inadvertently lead to a hike in prices being passed on to the customer.

Ofcom's consultation ends on 23 April 2012. ®

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