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Last week Ofcom called for consultation on its proposed change to the procedure employed when consumers wish to move their voice and broadband service to a different service provider.


Paul Heritage-Redpath, Product Manager

Currently if consumers want to switch, their existing provider is actively involved in the switching process. Ofcom argues that ‘such a process can give too much control to the existing provider, which has an incentive to delay or disrupt the transfer’. Instead Ofcom seeks harmonisation to a Gaining Provider Led system.

Ofcom’s Switching Consultation

The aim is to have a single switching process with the new provider taking the lead to move the consumer over to their service. It’s interesting that the motive behind the original review of this process was to help prevent abuse whereby consumers lose service in the switch or consumers are switched without any notification or consent. However, our own experience has been that this is not a common issue and Ofcom acknowledge in their report that the problem is only 16.2% the size of their initial estimate.

Entanet supports anything that genuinely improves the position of the customer but these proposals throw up some interesting points for debate:

Any change across industry like this raises costs for providers which have to be either swallowed or passed on, as well as the risk of disruption when systems are changed. Having one process sounds like a great idea – but the reality of the UK’s patchwork of connectivity is that there will still be separate processes for Openreach and Virgin.

At first sight the record-keeping obligations under discussion look rather onerous for communications providers and the notion of letter production feels strangely anachronistic for this industry; but we’re delighted that another centralised government database is not going to be part of the initial phase at least.

It’s interesting that Ofcom are now mandating simultaneous provide wherever possible when Openreach’s revised Sim2 process debuts in November. So, as matters stand, there is a risk of the need for CPs to undertake further systems work in the same area twice in a year. Having already taken two years to deliberate thus far, we think that Ofcom is being rather ambitious in allowing ISPs only one year to overcome what they acknowledge at para 1.16 admit to being ‘significant logistical challenges’.

We see demand for bandwidth continuing to trend upwards and so in our view it’s unfortunate that the opportunity hasn’t been taken to bring cable and fibre into one harmonised system for the future. The UK’s legacy copper estate continues to cast its shadow over thinking about the shape of our national connectivity.

We look forward to seeing how this plays out..

Have your say!
What do you think about Ofcom’s consumer switching review? Do you think its plans for one system are realistic? Do you think that some customers might abuse the system, or worse, gaining ISPs; or do you think that there has been too much control with the losing ISP provider? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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