It will be easier than ever for consumers to change broadband provider from April 2023, with new rules meaning customers only need to contact their new supplier to make the switch.
Since 2015, it has been possible to do this when changing between two providers that both use the Openreach network, such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk, or Vodafone.
However, this process does not apply when changing from an Openreach provider to one that uses a different type of infrastructure. This includes Virgin Media, which has its own cable system, and the likes of CityFibre and Hyperoptic which have separate full fibre networks.
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One touch broadband switching
Customers wanting to make such a change have to contact both their existing and future supplier, meaning the handover must be coordinated if there is to be no loss of service.
Under the new ‘one touch’ system, customers contact their new provider who will handle the switch. The existing provider would then automatically send out relevant information, such as early termination charges.
Research conducted by Ofcom suggests consumers two fifths of people who consider switching find this process to be too complex or time consuming, undermining competition in the market. The regulator believes a universal process which will encourage consumers to change and benefit from better deals – driving competition.
“Household finances are strained at the moment, so switching broadband provider could help keep your bills down,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's Networks and Communications Group Director.
“We’re making it as easy as possible for you to break up with your broadband provider and take advantage of the deals on offer.”
The reason it will take another 18 months for the rules to be implemented is because of the time it will take operators to make changes to their systems and how providers align their respective processes. Under the regulations, providers will also be required to compensate customers for any holdup in a changeover.
Mobile customers can already freely move between providers simply by sending a text message to their current provider.
“Under the new system it could be possible for some broadband switches to go live the next day, with providers forced to pay compensation if you are left without a connection for more than 24 hours. It's now vital providers turn their focus to implementation,” commented Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at Uswitch.
“This solution will help future-proof broadband switching and give consumers much-needed peace of mind when it comes to getting a better connection.
“Making things easier for consumers will become especially important in the future as more homes get access to gigabit-capable connections, from a wider range of infrastructure providers, so consumers can move to next-generation services with minimal fuss.”
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.