Sci-tech

Mobile users can switch providers via text under Ofcom reforms

Mobile users can switch providers via text under Ofcom reforms

Lindsey Fussell, of Ofcom, said: "Too many people are put off by the hassle of switching mobile provider".

Ofcom said its "easy-switch" process is aimed at removing obstacles people typically face today when trying to change operators, such as the difficulty of contacting their current provider or of coordinating the cancellation of an old contract with the start of a new one.

Customers can request the number porting code by texting a free short number, with all providers to use the same number.

Companies will also be banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. This could cost network providers a bit in the short-term but Ofcom reckons there'll be long-term efficiency benefits for telecoms companies, which should mean consumer doesn't end up footing the bill in the form of hiked-up contract prices.

The rules will affect all providers, including the UK's big four - EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three, in 18 months time, meaning they must comply by 1 July 2019.

From July 2019, mobile users will be able to switch providers by requesting a unique switching code from their current provider by text or online.

There will be two text numbers available industry wide - one for those wanting a porting authorisation code (PAC), which enables users to keep their existing mobile number, and one for those who don't want a new phone number.

The regulator said this would stop people paying for old and new services at the same time.

The customer can then pass this on to their new provider, who must arrange for the switch to be completed within one working day.

Mobile providers will also have to publish and promote "clear guidance" to help customers follow the new process and make informed switching decisions.

This won't all happen overnight: mobile providers will have to update their systems and there needs to be a degree of coordination between companies in order to make the text messaging facility work properly.

The code received will be valid for 30 days, giving consumers the chance to see if their current provider can offer a better deal.

Last month, Ofcom announced mobile and broadband customers will get their account automatically credited if they experience poor service.

'Customers should not have to pay twice to switch supplier, a change we have already implemented.


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