It's about to get a whole lot easier for mobile phone users in the UK to change networks or contracts as new switching rules come into force today.
The new Text to Switch rules from Ofcom look to simplify what has until now often been a lengthy and convoluted process, allowing mobile customers to leave their existing network by sending a single text message.
This message will allow users to quickly switch plans or network provider, and let them keep their existing phone number as well if wanted.
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Going forward, when a customer texts a request for a a cancellation code or a PAC code (porting authorisation code), mobile carriers will have to respond within a minute, and the codes they send will be valid for 30 days. These codes will be short and all mobile providers are required to use the same codes.
In addition to sending customers codes, providers will also have to include important information about any early termination charges, outstanding handset costs or pay-as-you-go credit balances.
Anyone wishing to change their phone number will be abe to do so by texting ‘STAC’ to 75075 to request a ‘service termination authorisation code’.
Lastly, anyone unsure whether they are still ‘in contract’, and wanting to find out if they need to pay any early termination charges can text ‘INFO’ to 85075 to find out without requesting a switching code.
“Breaking up with your mobile provider has never been easier thanks to Ofcom’s new rules," said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director. "You won’t need to have that awkward chat with your current provider to take advantage of the great deals available.”
Text to Switch
According to research from uSwitch, at least 15 percent of mobile users are out of contract which results in them paying £27.4m more than they should be every month, resulting in a total overspend of over £325m a year.
Of those who have tried to switch mobile carriers or plans, 40 percent have experienced difficulties while doing so. Some have struggled to take their existing number to a new handset, some have found it hard to navigate telecom websites and others have become increasingly frustrated with automated phone services after being placed on hold by call centers.
Networks have had 18 months to prepare for the implementation of Text to Switch, and the move has been hailed by many in the mobile industry, but some bodies have noted that the new rules may not go far enough.
“Switching supplier should be a quick and easy process, with minimum disruption to the customer. But mobile customers are often put off by having to jump over hurdles to switch providers, even if they could get a better deal somewhere else," said Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services.
“The introduction of text-to-switch is a step in the right direction, and we welcome the ban on customers having to pay for old and new services at the same time. However, we are disappointed that the regulator hasn’t taken steps to ensure that customers’ new providers handle the switching process, as is the case in the energy market.”
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Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.