Under new plans outlines by the telecoms regulator last week, mobile users will be able to switch to new providers by sending a text to their current handler.
Ofcom explained that the new system “would enable consumers to request the unique code they need to switch mobile providers, via text or online, whether they keep their mobile number or not, rather than having to call their provider.”
The plans are a response to the “unnecessarily difficult” and complicated processes often faced by customers when trying to change mobile providers. Almost 40% of users previously surveyed by Ofcom had said that they had experienced some trouble when trying to switch their mobile contract, including temporary loss of connection and difficulty keep their original phone number. Beyond technical issues, Ofcom wanted to give customers a chance to bypass delays and pushy sales tactics quite often employed by salespeople from providers over the phone.
Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussell said: “We want people and businesses to benefit from simpler, speedier mobile switching, making it easier for them to vote with their feet and take advantage of choice in the market. Our ‘text-to-switch’ plans would give greater control to mobile customers about when and how they switch, and prevent losing providers from delaying and frustrating the switching process.”
However, while the plans represent a simplification of existing processes, they do not go as far as Ofcom initially wanted them to. The had originally wanted to bypass any communication whatsoever with the user’s current provider.
The new provider-led approach would have been far more expensive to implement though, Ofcom found, with an estimated cost of £87m over 10 years, compared to the £44m cost of these latest text-to-switch proposals.
The new plans also contain provisions to stop providers from being able to charge for notice periods when customers do choose to switch, which would save customers an estimated £10 million a year.
A consultation on Ofcom’s proposals is currently underway and is set to be completed by the end of June, with a final decision expected by Autumn.