Today Ofcom has outlined proposals for making mobile network switching quicker and simpler. The watchdog "plans to overhaul mobile switching," and has conducted in-depth research about the processes customers have to go through in order to successfully switch providers. There are two alternative options outlined, and Ofcom will consult and then make its mind up on the chosen way forward with a final decision in autumn this year.
Ofcom's ideas about mobile network switching have firmed up since we first heard about this initiative back in July last year – obviously stemming from its research. The research results are certainly interesting. Difficulties experienced by mobile network switchers are very common with 38 per cent saying they experienced at least one major problem during the process. The data indicates that 2.5 million people changed providers in the last 18 months and their problems included; "difficulties contacting their current provider (11%), cancelling their service (10%), or keeping their phone number (10%), while one in five mobile switchers (20%) temporarily lost service". It was also revealed that the widespread knowledge of the difficulties in switching providers puts off a large amount of people from going ahead with the process.
Regarding Ofcom's latest brace of alternative switching options; the preferred option is a simple 'gaining provider-led' process and a secondary improved option simply makes getting a PAC via an automated service, either by text message or online.
In my experience with switching mobile networks, the first option is far preferable. The second option seems to slightly miss the point as I've never had any real difficulty obtaining the PAC, just the hindrance of being polite to teleworkers, but the biggest problem I've faced is with the end of contract period. Some networks have previously insisted on giving notice on certain days to avoid the sting of another month's line rental, for instance, but different customer service people have not always agreed what date that is, varying from sign up date to billing date or some other date.
The two Ofcom proposals are provided in diagrammatical form below:
Ofcom's preferred option - mobile switching led by the 'gaining provider'
Alternative option - automated PAC request
Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White summed up the purpose of the changes; "It is unacceptable for people to be missing out on better mobile deals because they fear the hassle of switching, or are put off having had a poor experience in the past," she said. "We want mobile customers to benefit from speedier, simpler switching, making it easier for them to vote with their feet and take advantage of choice in the market." Remember, Ofcom will decide on this matter following further consultation, expect the final decision this autumn.
In its summary Ofcom also pointed out that it is progressing work on consumers' experience of switching bundled services - landline, broadband and pay TV. Further important change could come with the landline telephone 'line rental' necessity for those using ADSL broadband being axed, if the statements from Culture Minister Ed Vaizey are anything to go by.