Ofcom has launched a new feature called text to switch, where you can switch mobile providers with a simple text message.
It comes after mass complaints from phone users that when they make the decision to switch to a better deal, they are put through to pushy salespeople in retentions department and being pressured to explain their choice to switch away from their former network.
At the moment if you want to transfer your mobile number to a new provider, you normally have to call your old network to request a ‘porting authorisation code’ (PAC code), and give this to the provider they plan to join.
The new rules mean that consumers will be able to switch away to a better deal without ever having to speak to their current network.
As part of the new guidelines, providers will also be banned from charging former customers for notice periods running after the switch date.
This will put an end to people paying for old and new services at the same time – saving UK mobile customers around £10m in total every year.
How hard is it to leave?
Ofcom’s in-house research shows that seven out of every 10 people encounter difficulties when trying to switch.
This is true across mobile phone contracts as well as for SIM Only deals.
The first time you choose to drop your expensive phone contract for SIM Only, you’ll be faced with unwanted attempts from your current network to force you to stay.
For the less forceful among us, it can be here when you’re persuaded to sign up for another deal you don’t really want just to get a salesperson out of your face and off the end of your phone line.
Around two in five mobile switchers, that’s 2.5 million people in the UK, say they experienced at least one major problem when switching.
Too many people are put off by the hassle of switching mobile provider. Our changes will make it quicker and easier for mobile phone users to get a better deal.
Customers will control how much contact they have with their current mobile provider, preventing companies from delaying and frustrating the switching process.- Lindsey Fussell: Consumer Group Director, Ofcom
How does it work?
- Mobile customers will simply request a unique switching code, either by text or online, to pass on to their new provider – who must then arrange for the switch to complete within one working day.
- People will text one of two memorable short codes, depending on whether or not they wish to keep their existing mobile telephone number. All mobile providers will have to use the same short codes.
- A customer’s existing provider must immediately respond by text – with either a ‘porting authorisation code’ (PAC) for those wishing to keep their phone number, or a cancellation code for those who want a new number. For businesses, they will get this code within two working days.
- The provider’s reply must also include important information about any early termination charges, outstanding handset costs, or pay-as-you-go credit balances.
- The unique switching code will be valid for 30 days. A customer will be able to pass the code on to their new provider at the point they place an order for their new service, without the need for any further conversation.
What is the letter of the law?
All providers, including new SIM Only networks like Voxi must comply with the rules by 1 June 2019 or face fines.
Ofcom say that providers will also have to publish and promote clear guidance to help customers follow the new process and “make informed switching decisions”.