Three has yet another moan but completely misses the point

Following Ofcom’s decision to tackle frustrations in exiting mobile contracts, 4th placed UK MNO Three has weighed in, as so often does, but seems to miss the point of the move.

Surely we cannot be the only ones have picked up on the fact Three is constantly moaning. We imagine a drab office, where an army of joyless nit-pickers wander around in bland uniforms while searching for something else to complain about. That is certainly the impression Three gives as it seemingly decides to grumble about everything in the telco world.

“We are disappointed that Ofcom is not proposing a move to gaining provider led switching,” said a Three spokesperson. “It is clear that having the gaining provider managing the switch will provide the greatest benefit to consumers and enable real ease of switching. Only under GPL can you ensure that the best deals are not kept for consumers who wish to leave their existing network.”

As far as we can see, Three has completely missed the point of the Ofcom idea to give control back to the consumer. Leaving a contract at the moment is a frustrating process; you have to spend what seems like hours on the phone, being passed from agent to agent, before finally receiving a PUC code to pass onto your next provider. The new idea from Ofcom is simple; send a text and receive one back with an exit code or the PUC number if you want to keep your number.

That said, Three seemingly wants to remove the power from the consumer before they even have it. Ofcom’s idea would give customers a 30 day cool down period, where they can decide what to do. They could weigh up the options over the course of a couple of weeks, seek out the best option playing providers off against each other or even decide to stay.

With Three’s counter-proposal, with the gaining-provider managing the process, the customer has firstly lost the element of control as a decision on where to go would have to be made before exiting the contract. It also gives the gaining-provider the freedom to harass the consumer with confirmation emails and phone calls if they aren’t moving fast enough for them.

While Ofcom’s idea would give freedom and negotiating power to the consumer, Three’s idea would simply pass the control from one provider to another. The customer remains a pawn in the drawn out telco battle and the industry remains in the same stagnant position as it is now. Giving the consumer freedom has the potential to be a catalyst for innovation and competition in the sector, which so desperately needs a kick in the right direction.

The difference between providers is negligible at the moment. The industry is moving away from subsidised handsets or gifts, increasingly competing on price and half-baked value adds. The last genuine disruption in the UK market probably came from Three with its SIM only, unlimited data offer which spanned numerous European countries, but that was a few years back; now most do it. Moving control back the consumer might stimulate some new ideas.

In truth, Three probably has more to gain from Ofcom’s ideas than other providers in the UK. Of the four main providers in the UK, Three is currently sitting in fourth with roughly 9% of total subscriptions. EE sits in first with just under 30%, O2 in second with 29% and Vodafone in third with 20% (data from Ovum’s WCIS service). The simpler the process of leaving a provider, the more opportunity the challenger brands have. Predictably though, Three is still not happy.

Ultimately, Ofcom’s idea is a good one. It gives control back to the consumer, however the indirect impact might also encourage a bit of innovation and creativity in the industry. We’re not too sure whether the Three team understands the point in the move, or whether it just enjoys being a pain. Maybe Three is just another one of those evil corporations which doesn’t want to give freedom back to the consumer, but just wants to create the illusion of choice?

That is irrelevant however, as few should be surprised Three has once more found some objection to the new proposals.

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