Business

Switch plan for mobile phone contracts

Woman using a mobile phone Image copyright Science Photo Library

Switching mobile phone providers should be made simpler, the regulator says, under plans that mirror bank account swaps.

Ofcom's preferred option is for responsibility for the switch being placed entirely in the hands of the new provider.

That would mean an end to the process of contacting the existing provider in order to end the current contract.

A final decision will be made in the autumn.

'Unacceptable'

There are an estimated 47 million mobile phone contracts in the UK, and approximately 5.9 million people have never switched provider at all, nor considered switching in the past year.

Ofcom research suggests that, of those who have switched, some 38% have been hit by one major problem during the process. One in five of them temporarily lost their service, and one in 10 had difficulties contacting their current supplier or keeping their phone number.

The regulator has outlined two options to improve the process:

  • Under the first proposal - its preferred option - a customer would only need to deal with the new provider. Such a system is already in place with broadband services via Openreach and in other industries, such as switching bank current accounts
  • Under the second, the customer would still need to be given their PAC switching code from their old provider, but customers could ask to receive it by text or online.

Sharon White, Ofcom 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."

Dan Howdle, from switching company Cable.co.uk, said: "I am elated that Ofcom is finally looking to expose the convoluted switching process for what it is - not merely a series of laborious administrative hoops, but a set of sticking points designed to actively dissuade us from switching provider."

The regulator also wants customers to be given the chance to defer a switch to prevent double paying on both contracts during the handover process.

Customers can already switch without a penalty during a 30-day period after a provider announces an unexpected price rise.

The plans will now go to consultation before a final decision later in the year.

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