A deadline for broadband providers to implement Ofcom’s new easy switching process is likely to be missed.
The ‘One Touch Switch’ process intends to make it easier for customers to switch their broadband provider.
Research from Uswitch found that over a third (36%) of broadband customers have never switched their provider. Many households could be missing out on savings which could help ease cost-of-living pressures.
“As broadband customers across the country face bill rises next month, a simplified way of switching providers would have been welcomed by those looking for an easy way to save money,” said Alex Tofts, Broadband Expert at Broadband Genie.
“The problem is many people can be put off switching as they feel the process will be complicated and risks you being temporarily disconnected or charged for two providers at the same time.”
Ofcom’s new process aims to make switching broadband as easy as changing banks or mobile providers. Customers won’t need to contact their old provider and even moves between separate networks, like Openreach to Virgin Media, could be completed in a day.
However, providers have said the industry won’t be ready for the 3rd April 2023 deadline.
One anonymous provider, speaking to Broadband Genie, commented:
“The industry is delivering this via TOTSCo (The One Touch Switching Company), which is currently in the process of procuring a ‘hub’ solution on behalf of all providers. As I understand it, this has not happened yet.
Once a solution has been procured and built which plugs into providers’ systems and facilitates One Touch Switch, providers will need to run an extensive testing and implementation period. As you can imagine, all of that will take a long time.
You’ll no doubt be aware that the target is to deliver in April. Quite frankly, it’s impossible for the industry to be ready for that.”
Ofcom has previously expressed concern that its deadline would be missed but is yet to give any official update.
“Unfortunately, some blame has to be laid at Ofcom’s door, as well as The One Touch Switching Company, which was established to help with the transition. Providers have been left in the dark and given little direction,” added Tofts.
“While it seems to be finally taking mid-contract price rises seriously, the regulator is failing consumers by not ironing out overly complicated switching processes.”
However, Ofcom rejects that it is to be blamed.
“We completely reject these assertions. It’s the responsibility of all providers to make sure they comply with our rules, including any changes we make to them,” said an Ofcom spokesperson.
“The new switching requirements have been well publicised and we’ve been talking to industry throughout the process.”
Concerns have also been raised about the lack of detail in Ofcom’s plans, especially the potential for people to become ‘slamming’ victims—which is when customers have their services transferred without being contacted or giving their consent. However, Ofcom makes clear it has safeguards in place.
“The One Touch Switch process contains safeguards against the risk of slamming. For example, a switch order cannot be placed without a successful match, which requires multiple pieces of information about the customer and their services,” the spokesperson explained.
“If the requesting customer provides the correct information, the losing provider sends out a notification to the customer informing them of the switch. It can be sent to the customer immediately and automatically. The notification would alert the customer to the switch and name the gaining provider. This would provide additional protection against slamming where the customer has not given their consent to switch.”
Ofcom has previously said that if the One Touch Switch deadline was missed, they may punish providers.
“We are very concerned at the rate of the industry’s progress in implementing the new switching process in advance of the April deadline. These changes are vital for making broadband switching quicker, easier and more reliable, and it’s been well over a year since we announced our decision,” added Ofcom’s spokesperson.
“We are closely monitoring this situation as it develops and putting pressure on the industry to meet the requirements. If the deadline is not met and companies are not complying with our rules when they come into effect, we will decide what action is appropriate to take.”
UK broadband customers can use Uswitch’s comparison service to ensure they are on the best deal for their needs.
Update: Added comments from an Ofcom spokesperson.
(Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash)
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