OFCOM explained that the reason behind their proposals is that it is important to make sure that consumers have a choice of telecoms providers, and that more importantly, they feel that they are able to easily make their choice. Although telecoms users should be able to switch telecoms providers easily to ensure that have a telephone or broadband provider that best suits their needs, research has shown that consumers face such a large number of problems whilst switching that it puts people off trying to do so. In fact, OFCOM’s research shows that 23% of people who switched telecoms bundles in the last year found the experience difficult, compared to just 4% who switched car insurance or gas suppliers. Meanwhile, research carried out by the watchdog in September 2010 showed that 45% of people thought that switching would be too much hassle.
Examples of the problems often encountered by telecoms customers choosing to switch their suppliers included around 130,000 households in 12 months having the wrong telephone line taken over during the switching process or when moving house, and that when switching broadband around 1/5 consumers lost their service altogether for about a week. Regarding the other problem of having their landline or broadband switched without their consent (known as “slammed), an estimated 520,000 households had this problem over the last year.
OFCOM has therefore proposed some changes which it says would help consumers with the process of changing telecoms providers. Their preferred solution to the problems consumers face is that the new provider would be in charge of managing the switching process. This would mean they would be in charge of transferring the services from the old provider to themselves. However, to guard against the problem of “slamming”, the process would also be checked and verified by an independent third party. This is similar to the method used in the USA and Ireland.
OFCOM’s proposals also aim to simplify the whole process of switching so that it is less confusing and easier for customers, make sure that all telecoms providers are able to compete so that consumers get a real choice with good value for money, make sure that technical problems do not happen, and ensure that customers have accurate information.
Commenting on the proposals, OFCOM CEO Ed Richards said: “Smooth switching processes are essential to ensure that consumers can change providers with confidence. Many people think that the current systems are too difficult and unreliable which is why we have made it one of our priorities to tackle this problem ... it is also essential that people are able to switch easily to exercise their choice. Today’s proposals are designed to make the process easier, more reliable and safe from slamming. We believe that the proposals would improve consumers’ experience of switching and ensure that they continue to benefit from competition.”
To ensure that people do have a choice and access to competiton, OFCOM has accredited a number of online price comparison calculators by independently auditing them and awarding their website the OFCOM price accreditation scheme logo if it passes their tests. They only receive this award if the information they provide is considered to be accessible, transparent, comprehensive, accurate and up to date. Sites that have received the award are Homephone Choices for landline services, SimplifyDigital and Cable.co.uk for landline and broadband services, and Broadband Choices and Broadband.co.uk for just broadband services.
DBS Chess has always believed in making it easy for customers to switch if they wish to, which is why you only have to give us 30 days written notice if you would like to cancel your 0800, 0845, local or 0203 numbers. Customers should have the freedom to choose which provider and service they have, and not be tied in to long contracts which they don’t want or need when circumstances change.