Ofcom finally gets around to simplifying broadband switching

Having done a similar number on the mobile sector years ago, UK comms regulator Ofcom has decided broadband providers need to make it easier for their customers to leave.

Scott Bicheno

September 28, 2021

2 Min Read
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Internet connection with the optical fiber. Concept of fast internet

Having done a similar number on the mobile sector years ago, UK comms regulator Ofcom has decided broadband providers need to make it easier for their customers to leave.

For years it was standard business practice in the telecoms industry to not only lock customers into long contracts, but to make it as difficult as possible for them to leave at the end of them. There are loads of simple ways to do this legally by throwing up delays, layers of Byzantine bureaucracy and simply failing to respond to any such requests. At the end of 2017 Ofcom decided to tackle this problem in the mobile sector, but apparently forgot about fixed-lines.

It took a while but eventually, at the start of this year, its focus turned to the broadband market and the compulsory consultation ensued, with a vow to publish the resulting decision in the summer. The weather has been fairly decent recently, but calling late September summer is still a bit of a reach. Nonetheless this is when the announcement has been made and, to nobody’s surprise, we’re going with Plan A.

Here’s what’s going to happen, as summarised at the start of the 144-page document.

Easier landline and broadband switching

Providers must develop and operate a new ‘One Touch Switch’ process for all residential customers who switch landline and broadband services. This new process will replace the existing arrangements from April 2023.

Using One Touch Switch, all customers will be able to use a single process to move providers regardless of who their provider is or the technology or network their provider uses. For example, customers could use One Touch Switch to move their services from Virgin Media to Hyperoptic, or to another provider delivering services using Openreach or CityFibre’s network. They will also be able to switch between providers of full-fibre broadband services on the same network.

One Touch Switch will mean customers only need to contact their new provider, who will arrange and manage the switch on their behalf. It will ensure all customers can use a process that is easy, quick, reliable and ensures they have given their informed consent.

So it seems pretty similar to the system already in place for mobile, which is a good one. By taking the spurned provider out of the process the opportunity for obstructionism is removed and a purer free market created. Stakeholders have a month or so to moan to Ofcom about the decision but any objections will presumably be disregarded.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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