Ofcom opens mobile switching consultation

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has opened its consultation process aimed at making it easier for UK consumers to switch mobile providers.

This move was telegraphed by new Ofcom boss Sharon White in her first speech since landing the job back in June. This also marked the opening of an investigation into the process of mobile switching, which has now been opened up to third parties to submit their suggestions on how the process can be improved.

The standard format for these sorts of consultation is for there to be a range of options, from maintaining the status quo to draconian intervention, with some point in the middle probably being what Ofcom has in mind. It wouldn’t open the consultation if it didn’t think things needed changing, but it remains undecided on the precise nature of those changes.

“Consumers should be able to switch their mobile providers with minimum hassle to take advantage of the best deals on the market,” said White. “Ofcom has recently made switching easier for millions of broadband users, and we are now focusing on improving the process for mobile customers.”

Attempting to change providers has typically been a fraught and stressful experience for UK mobile consumers as the process often involves a lengthy phone call with a person specifically trained to try to get you to change your mind. Alongside financial inducements and outright pleading, one apparent strategy has been to make the process so protracted and odious that some people just give up.

One specific obstacle can be the delivery of the PAC (Porting Authorisation Code), which is required if you want to keep your mobile number when switching suppliers, and Ofcom has identified this process as one that needs special attention. On top of this Ofcom is extending the reach of its ongoing investigation to look at the ease of switching multiplay bundles too.

As ever the start of a regulatory public consultation is an opportunity for stakeholders to voluntarily adjust their behavior before a more coercive course of action is called for. It wouldn’t be surprising to see lofty announcements from CSPs as we get closer to the 6 October closing date, announcing they’ve suddenly decided to do the decent thing when it comes to switching.

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