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Ofcom plans to ease phone and broadband switching

A new communications switching agency could be launched on the back of a damning report into the hassle of switching broadband and phone providers.

Communications watchdog Ofcom has proposed the new body to make switching providers safer for consumers and improve competition between providers.

Ofcom’s Consumer Switching consultation lists a catalogue of pitfalls, misinformation and hard-sell techniques faced by consumers trying to switch their broadband or phone providers

Ofcom

It includes 130,000 homes per year losing their phone number or service as they switched because their providers couldn’t be bothered to use the correct system.

Despite the MAC process for switching broadband, one in five broadband switchers lose their service, for an average of a week.

And every year, more than half a million homes have their phone or broadband illegally ‘slammed’ to another provider, and up to 60 per cent find it too difficult or expensive to reverse the switch.

Ofcom said: “We have identified a number of problems with switching fixed voice and broadband services delivered over the Openreach copper network.

“Consumers should be able to switch between services and providers without undue effort, disruption and anxiety.

“A lack of confidence in the switching processes may mean consumers choose not to switch. This means consumers will not receive the benefits from competition they should be able to expect.”

The new body would keep a list of every broadband and phone connection, and ask consumers if they agreed to changing providers before authorising the switch.

It’s one of several options thought up by a group of government and industry experts to tackle the problems facing consumers and deal with new technologies like fibre-optic broadband.

Ofcom decided the new agency would be be the best way to make switching easier and safer, although it could be costly for the industry.

Now it’s looking for consumers and the industry to have their say on the proposals. There’s a plain English guide, and you can respond online or by post here.

The consultation is open until April 23, and Ofcom wants to have its final plan published by the end of 2012.

It’s also going to examine the problems affecting people who want to switch to and from cable technologies, next generation access (NGA) technologies, mobile and pay-TV services. 

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