December 2017 saw an announcement by telecoms industry regulator Ofcom detailing a plan to streamline and simplify the process of switching mobile phone providers, which must be complied with by 1st July 2019.
The new system will enable users to send a free text to their current mobile phone providers to request a PAC (Porting Authorisation Code) if they wish to retain their current number, or a cancellation code if they do not. The provider is then obliged to respond immediately with all relevant details, including information on outstanding payments and termination charges. Following receipt of the relevant code, the user will need to pass the PAC on to their new provider, who will then arrange for the switch to be completed within one working day.
This is how Ofcom’s new ‘text-to-switch’ process will work:
Under Ofcom’s new rules, mobile providers will also be banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. This will put an end to people paying for old and new services at the same time.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said:
Too many people are put off by the hassle of switching mobile provider. Our changes will make it quicker and easier for mobile phone users to get a better deal.
She went on to say:
Customers will control how much contact they have with their current mobile provider, preventing companies from delaying and frustrating the switching process.
This new process means that users can switch quickly and easily without the hassle of fending off the networks robust retention attempts. The hope is that this, in turn, could lead to a more open and competitive market, driven by the knowledge that if users aren’t getting the best deal, they can simply leave without going through the current long-winded hassle of obtaining a PAC. Network providers can still contact the user and attempt to convince them to stay, but the conversation will only be able to happen post-PAC provision, putting the user in the driving seat [of the switching process].
Of the new regulations, Billmonitor MD Klaus Henke said:
This is great news for consumers, even if the process is still more complex than for other utilities like gas and electricity. Billmonitor has been lobbying Ofcom for nearly 10 years to change the PAC system to a more user-friendly switching process, and it is great to finally see some progress. The only snag is that the networks have 18 months to implement it, which is quite a long time to wait for a relatively simple solution.