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Broadband switching to be made faster and easier under new rules

·3 min read
A woman looks to the sky, clearly bored while on hold on the phone pressed to her ear
A woman looks to the sky, clearly bored while on hold on the phone pressed to her ear

Media regulator Ofcom says new rules will make it faster and easier to switch broadband provider.

It means customers will only have to contact the new company they want to deal with, even if they are switching to a different type of technology.

Ofcom said the "one touch" switching process could take as little as a day, with customers owed compensation if it takes longer.

The same system will apply to switching landline phone lines.

The change is, in effect, an expansion of the system already in place for providers who share the same kind of technology.

For example, some providers such as BT, Sky, and TalkTalk all use the Openreach copper cable network, and switching from one of those providers to another has long been relatively simple.

But switching from one of those copper providers to a cable or fibre optic system - such as Virgin Media or Hyperoptic - has meant customers need to spend time on the phone co-ordinating the switchover between several companies.

From April 2023 at the latest, that will no longer be the case.

Ofcom said the new rules would make it much faster and easier to switch provider, and the broadband firms would also have to give customers compensation "if things go wrong and they are left without a service for more than one working day".

It said its research showed that 41% of people who decide not to switch providers are "put off by the hassle" of the current process, while 43% thought it would take too long.

Sales pitch

Among those who do switch providers, nearly a quarter (24%) said that contacting their current provider to arrange it led to "unwanted" sales pitches to stay.

Under the new system, customers will contact only the new provider. They will then receive correspondence from their old company telling them about any remaining amounts owed, and they can then tell their new company to go ahead if they are happy to proceed.

Consumer rights group Which? said the announcement was welcome but needed to be implemented as soon as possible.

"The coronavirus crisis has meant consumers are more reliant on a good broadband connection than they've ever been - so it's positive to see the regulator removing barriers that are preventing people switching providers and getting a better deal," said Rocio Concha, the group's policy director.

She also warned customers not to delay switching until the new rules come in - saying it can save up to £143 a year, and get you improved service.

Price comparison and switching site USwitch said the move was "another important stepping stone" in getting people to upgrade to faster fibre broadband.

"This solution will help future-proof broadband switching and give consumers much-needed peace of mind when it comes to getting a better connection," said its regulation expert Richard Neudegg.

"Making things easier for consumers will become especially important in the future as more homes get access to gigabit-capable connections, from a wider range of infrastructure providers, so consumers can move to next-generation services with minimal fuss."

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