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No more MAC codes as Ofcom streamlines switching broadband and home phone

Consumers won’t need to ask their ISP for a MAC code under new rules to make it easier to switch between broadband and home phone services.

By the end of 2014, your new broadband and phone provider (we’ll call them ISPs) will take care of the whole switching process, and you won’t need to contact your current provider.

Communications watchdog Ofcom hopes to take the hassle out of switching ISPs for the more than 2.8 million homeowners who decide to change every year.

No more MAC codes as Ofcom streamlines switching broadband and home phone
Ofcom thinks it needs to be easier to switch ISPs

Read Recombu Digital’s guides to switching broadband and TV providers“Under a Gaining Provider-led switching process, the incentives of the Gaining Provider and the consumer are aligned because both want the switch to be quick and easy,” said Ofcom’s Consumer Switching Review statement released today.

“This means that a timely and smooth switch is more likely to be accomplished, and consumer switching costs are minimised. 

“The services involved are of vital importance to consumers. They spent an estimated £113.51 per month on communications services in 2012.”

It’s taken Ofcom three years to decide on the best way for consumers to switch ISPs, since its initial research and consultation in 2010.

This was followed by an industry working group into different options, and expert analysis of the costs and implications, then a second consultation 2012.

Under the new switching process, your new ISP will have to show you agreed to switch providers, and both your old and new ISPs will have to provide a confirmation of the switch by email or post.

Your old ISP will also have to detail the implications of switching, such as early termination charges and losing other benefits such as smartphone apps or free WiFi.

Both ISPs will also have to work together to minimise the loss of broadband and phone services when switching, which currently happens to one in five users.

There will also be special procedures for consumers who switch broadband providers when they switch homes – where one in three will suffer a loss of services, and 118,700 households per year find the wrong line has been switched.

Your new ISP will only be able to start the switching process if they have an exact match for your phone line and address.

Both ISPs and BT Openreach will have to improve their record-keeping and databases to make the new system work reliably, particularly with new services using fibre-optic broadband.

Openreach, which operates the fibre and copper network on which most UK ISPs run their services, hasn’t built the new services to be compatible with ISP-switching processes for the old ones.

The industry, consumer groups and consumers have until October 2, 2013, to give Ofcom their opinions on its proposals, with a final statement on how to go ahead expected in early 2014.

TalkTalk gave a thumbs-up to the proposals: “We have long argued the switching process is unnecessarily complicated, therefore we welcome Ofcom’s announcement. A simpler, single switching process is vital for a more competitive market providing better value and choice for consumers.”

No more MAC codes as Ofcom streamlines switching broadband and home phone
Getting ISPs onto the new switching process isn’t an overnight job

Cover image: basykes/Flickr

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