Ofcom aims to make switching broadband network easier; proposes ban on ‘locked’ handsets

18 Dec 2019

The United Kingdom’s telecoms regulator Ofcom has said it is aiming to make the process of customers switching between different broadband networks easier in future. While it noted that the process for moving between providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk on Openreach’s infrastructure is already relatively simple and managed by their new provider, it highlighted the difficulties faced by those subscribers that wish to move to a different network, such as those owned and operated by the likes of CityFibre, Gigaclear, Hyperoptic or Virgin Media.

Under the current system, such customers need to contact both their existing and new provider to co-ordinate the switch, and make sure there is no gap between the old service ending and the new one starting. To address this issue, Ofcom is proposing that those broadband providers gaining the new subscriber will be required to lead the switchover, and offer a ‘seamless switching experience’, regardless of whether the customer is moving across different fixed networks or ‘between providers of full fibre broadband services on the same fixed network’. In addition, the regulator has said that any loss of service that might occur during a switch should not exceed one working day, while providers will be required to compensate customers should anything go wrong during the process.

Commenting on the matter, Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: ‘Switching broadband provider should be quick, simple and hassle-free … Our plans would make it even easier to shop around – putting an end to needless time and effort spent dealing with different broadband companies.’

Meanwhile, alongside its plans to make the broadband switching process easier, Ofcom is also consulting on a proposal to introduce a ban on the sale of ‘locked’ mobile devices. While the regulator noted that O2 UK, Three UK and Sky all currently sell unlocked devices to their customers, it pointed out that the likes of BT, EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone UK still sell mobile handsets that cannot be used on other networks, until unlocked. Arguing that this practice ‘creates additional hassle and can put someone off from switching altogether’, Ofcom has said it intends to ban the sale of locked mobile devices.

Ofcom’s consultation on both matters, entitled ‘Fair treatment and easier switching for broadband and mobile customers’, is accepting responses until 3 March 2020.