Ofcom consultation on mobile switching process

Ofcom consultation on mobile switching process

As announced in Sharon White’s first speech as Ofcom CEO, the Regulator launched yesterday a new consultation on proposals to facilitate mobile switching services. On the basis of evidence gathered in summer 2014, Ofcom identified issues with the current switching processes, and found that these could be confusing and appear to be made difficult for consumers. By improving the switching process and dealing with consumers’ perception that “switching is hard”, Ofcom hopes these changes will lead to more effective competition between providers.

Some of the options considered in the consultation include:

–          Putting in place a “gaining provider led” (GPL) process – the switching process  is entirely managed by the company the customer is joining

–          Simplifying the process of obtaining a “porting authorisation code” (PAC)  which allows customers to keep their existing phone number when switching providers

The changes could be introduced on a voluntary basis. Ofcom is currently gathering further evidence of the consumer experience of switching and how this is influenced by existing processes. It is planning on publishing a report in spring 2016. If evidence confirms that current switching processes cause harm to consumers, and if a voluntary reform hasn’t been agreed in the meantime, Ofcom will then consult on detailed proposals.

The implications of introducing changes to the switching process are both technical (Ofcom is currently liaising with providers on this aspect) and potentially costly (for the mobile providers initially and for consumers if the costs are passed on to them). On this point, Sharon White, in her presentation of her priorities to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on the 21st of July, recognised that the challenge is that the costs associated with the implementation of a new system need to be outweighed by the benefits to the consumers.

The consultation will close on the 6th of October 2015.

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