Ofcom has opened a consultation upon the process that mobile customers have to go through to change providers. It says that it's important that customers can switch mobile providers easily "in order to take advantage of competition in the communications sector". Obviously Ofcom has noticed there is currently a problem with the way users have to jump through hoops to switch from one mobile provider to another.
My last switching experience
If you've ever switched mobile networks it probably wasn't a quick and pleasant process. The last time I switched, from EE, I had prepared a calendar on what day to phone up to obtain a PAC, what day to give notice, when to buy the new mobile contract and so on. Despite my plans I did various things too early and others too late and incurred extra contract overlapping costs. I was very annoyed to get charged an early termination fee despite taking the advice of an EE advisor and then was too late to call about some step in this process as EE's call centre customer services were closed one day "due to overwhelming demand for the iPhone 6". That was all sorted out in the end – and I got refunded – but it took a lot of calls and caused a lot of friction. Of course other networks can be just as bad in helping you transfer away smoothly.
Ofcom's consumer mobile switching reform suggestions
Ofcom has seen evidence that "a significant proportion of those who have switched mobile provider continue to experience process-related difficulties arising from switching costs, multiple processes, difficulties co-ordinating the switch and continuity of service."
To remove consumer friction from the process Ofcom proposes that; consumers can easily find out the information they need to switch, and any new process will not require the consumer to speak to their existing provider. It has put forward two options for consideration as follows:
Option 1: Simplifying the process for obtaining a PAC. In this option Ofcom thinks that customers should be able to simply get a PAC without speaking to someone, possibly via an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) or SMS message. Alternatively a centralised porting system (CPS) should deal with all the PAC requests. Either of these will help reduce the opportunity for the leaving provider (LP) to slow down or make the process more difficult.
Option 2: With this option the mobile switching would work just like broadband switching works now. This process would be gaining provider (GP) led. So to change mobile provider a customer simply calls the friendly, well staffed, sales department of a new provider, who then sorts out all the coordination and termination of old services/contracts for you.
Key: LPL = leaving provider led, GPL = gaining provider led. SIM, PAC and SMS you already know.
The Ofcom consultation is open for mobile operators and other parties to get involved with until 6th October. A decision will be made on what actions to take in Spring next year.