From Summer 2019 you’ll be able to switch mobile networks by simply sending a text message.
Currently, if you want to leave your network, you have to go through a tedious process of contacting its customer services team and asking for your port authorisation code (PAC) if you want to take your phone number with you. In my experience, they’ll have no qualms about keeping you waiting and will likely offer you a tantalising deal to try to keep you as a customers.
Clearly I’m not alone because Ofcom’s own research found that around 40% of mobile switchers “experienced at least one major problem when switching, while seven in ten encountered at least some difficulty.”
The new procedure means you’ll be able to skip this ordeal altogether and simply text your network provider with one of two short codes – one that enables you to keep your phone number, and another you can use if you don’t want it any longer.
Depending on which code you send, you’ll immediately be sent a PAC code or a cancellation code which you can give to a new network provider within 30 days to complete the switch.
You’ll still be required to settle any cancellation fees and other costs, but your network will be required to detail these in their reply. They’ll also be barred from billing you for a particular notice period, so you won’t ever pay for two contracts simultaneously.
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…Customers will control how much contact they have with their current mobile provider, preventing companies from delaying and frustrating the switching process.”
As a result of the changes, we can expect to see mobile networks offering better deals than ever in order to tempt us away from our current providers. However, switching still won’t be quite as straightforward as moving broadband provider, where you can simply contact the provider you want to switch to and avoid speaking to your current provider altogether.
Head of regulation at uSwitch, Richard Neudegg, highlighted that such a system would have been preferable: “Our own research from earlier this year found that while one in five thought text-to-switch would make them more likely to switch provider, more than double would have been encouraged to change under a gaining-provider led process, the alternative system that Ofcom decided against. While it’s disappointing Ofcom did not go further, this is still an improvement that will make it easier for more customers to get a better deal.”
The reason the new procedure won’t be rolled out sooner than 2019 is to give network providers enough time to make the necessary changes to their systems.
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