Broadband and landline customers will soon be able to switch provider in a one touch process, Ofcom announced this week.
The aim is to make switching telecoms firm quicker and easier with residential customers only having to contact their new company rather than both the new and old.
As a result, customers should be able to switch in as little as one day, where possible and the aim is to remove a major barrier to moving provider.
Households can already switch between providers on Openreach’s copper network, such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk by following a process where their new provider manages the switch.
Broadband and landline customers will soon be able to switch provider in a one touch process
But for the first time, customers switching between different networks or technologies – for example, from a provider using the Openreach network to one using CityFibre’s, or from Virgin Media to Hyperoptic – will be covered by the simpler process.
This is Money takes a look at how this will work and when it could come into force.
How does switching currently work?
Currently, broadband and landline customers need to contact both their existing and new provider to co-ordinate the switch.
This includes trying to bridge the gap between the old service ending and the new one starting.
Previous Ofcom research showed two in five who decide against switching were put off by the hassle of having to contact more than one provider.
Another 43 per cent were put off as they think it will be too time-consuming. Of those who do switch, 24 per cent who contact their current provider face unwanted attempts to persuade them to stay.
Therefore, the regulator decided it was time to make the process easier.
How it will work after the new changes are enforced
Ofcom will introduce the new ‘one touch’ process which it says will make it easier to get a faster package, cheaper deal or better customer service when customers switch provider.
It will also make it quicker – just one day where this is technically possible.
Below Ofcom has set out exactly what steps customers will need to take.
1. A customer will contact their chosen new provider and give their details.
2. The customer then automatically receives important information from their current provider.
This includes any early contract termination charges they may have to pay, and how the switch may affect other services the customer has with the company.
3. If the customer wants to go ahead, the new provider will then manage the switch with new services beginning on an agreed date when the old services cease.
Under the new rules, providers will also have to compensate customers if things go wrong and they are left without a service for more than one working day.
Ofcom has also banned notice-period charges beyond the switch date.
It is hoped the new plans will make it easier for customers to switch landline & broadband
When will this take place?
All providers must have the ‘One Touch Switch’ process in place by April 2023.
This will involve making significant changes to their systems and will require a wide range of companies to work together.
Ofcom said it has made it clear to industry that work must start immediately to meet the deadline.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director, said: ‘Household finances are strained at the moment, so switching broadband provider could help keep your bills down.
‘We’re making it as easy as possible for you to break up with your broadband provider and take advantage of the deals on offer.’
What do providers think of the changes?
While many of the providers praised the changes, some wanted the new rules to go even further.
A BT spokesperson said: ‘We want to make switching broadband providers as simple as possible for consumers, regardless of which network they are on.
‘By allowing customers to only have to notify their new provider, we believe this process will do just that.
‘We’re keen to get the new process up and running quickly, and we urge all providers to work collaboratively on this.
‘We also want the new process to extend to switching Pay TV providers, so that the benefits of seamless switching are not undermined for those who take a “triple play” bundle of voice, broadband and pay TV.’
This is Money has asked Virgin Media and TalkTalk for comment but have not yet received a reply.
Experts have praised the move by Ofcom but some providers think it could go even further
What has the reaction from experts been like?
Reaction from the telecoms industry has generally been positive with experts encouraging Ofcom to implement the scheme as soon as possible.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: ‘The coronavirus crisis has meant consumers are more reliant on a good broadband connection than they’ve ever been before – so it’s positive to see the regulator removing barriers that are preventing people switching providers and getting a better deal.
‘This new one touch switch process must now be implemented swiftly so that consumers can reap the benefits as soon as possible.
‘Consumers also shouldn’t delay looking for a new deal – anyone unhappy with their current provider could potentially save up to £143 a year and get improved service by switching.’
Other experts hope the new rules will encourage more customers to switch providers.
Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at Uswitch, added: ‘This is another important stepping stone in helping the country upgrade to full fibre.
‘Switching broadband can feel like a complicated process and can put some consumers off searching for a better deal, potentially costing them £90 a year as they sit out of contract with their existing provider.
‘Ofcom’s new one touch switch plans will make switching more consistent regardless of provider, meaning a simpler and potentially faster experience for consumers.
‘Under the new system it could be possible for some broadband switches to go live the next day, with providers forced to pay compensation if you are left without a connection for more than 24 hours. It’s now vital providers turn their focus to implementation.
‘This solution will help future-proof broadband switching and give consumers much-needed peace of mind when it comes to getting a better connection.
‘Making things easier for consumers will become especially important in the future as more homes get access to gigabit-capable connections, from a wider range of infrastructure providers, so consumers can move to next-generation services with minimal fuss.’