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Ofcom: Making a switch between ISPs will soon be much easier

You'll have to wait until 2015 though

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Ofcom is bringing in new measures to finally make it much easier for broadband and landline customers in the UK to drop one telco in favour of another provider.

In the past, subscribers were required to do loads of legwork to make the switch, which often meant they were much more reluctant to ditch their existing ISP – even if they were fed up with their current service or, indeed, eyeing up a better deal.

The cumbersome process – pooh-poohed by Ofcom – required customers to contact their existing telco to inform them of their desired transfer to another provider.

But ISPs sometimes responded sluggishly to such requests, which also involved handing over a code to customers for the migration, as it was not in their interests to let a subscriber escape to a rival company.

Ofcom said that subscribers will follow a single switching process that will be led by the ISP they are moving to. Apparently, most firms have already adopted this method, but it's expected to become a regulatory requirement that must be adhered to by all telcos.

"The move towards one clear and simple system led by the gaining provider will result in a switching process that works in consumers’ best interests," said the watchdog's consumer group director Claudio Pollack.

"We will now be working on further measures to improve consumers’ experience of switching."

The watchdog said that a consultation process relating to a change to the rules will close on 2 October. But the switching process isn't expected to come into effect until 2015.

At present, the decision applies only to switching providers on BT's Openreach copper network. Ofcom said:

The Openreach copper network is a single infrastructure supporting a number of suppliers. Ofcom previously decided to prioritise work on switching processes on the Openreach copper network as switching landline and broadband providers were the areas of highest concern.

Ofcom’s policy decision therefore applies to fixed telephony as well as standard and superfast broadband which use copper into the home (including fibre to the cabinet, or FTTC).

It does not currently apply to cable, or to fibre to the premises (FTTP) customers. Ofcom will be considering the possibility of developing a consistent switching process for consumers to ensure they have a similar experience regardless of the network.

Customers will also be protected from the method of slamming whereby they are deliberately transferred without giving their consent, Ofcom said. The regulator explained that telcos would need to keep records of any consent given confirming a switch to another provider.

In February 2012, the regulator said that more than half a million Brits had been slammed. It had originally considered the idea of having an independent third party check and verify the switch. But that plan now appears to have been dropped.

This way for Ofcom's plans (PDF). ®

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