Millions of broadband and landline customers should find it easier to switch providers from tomorrow, communications regulator Ofcom says.
It will introduce a new system on Saturday to make it simpler for customers to switch between providers that use the Openreach telecoms network, such as BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk.
In total, there are over 200 companies that use the network, so the majority of people should benefit, but the changes won't apply to cable providers such as Virgin Media, which runs its own network.
Ofcom's new 'one touch' process gives responsibility for the broadband and landline switch to the provider gaining the new customer, so it will contact the existing supplier to request a Mac code and cancel the existing contract on behalf of the new user. See MoneySavingExpert.com's Cheap Broadband guide to see if you can switch and save if you're overpaying each year.
During the switch, customers will receive written confirmation from both the old and new provider that the move is taking place, and the provider you're leaving must include the following information:
- Services that are affected
- Services that are not affected
- Any early-termination charges
- Estimate of the date the switch will happen.
Suppliers must also keep records of the customer's consent to switch for a minimum of 12 months in order to avoid 'slamming' – where a customer's supplier is changed without their knowledge or consent.
If you don't wish to go ahead with the switch, you can cancel during a 14-day cooling-off period, and Ofcom says that while the process won't be faster (it's usually one to two weeks but varies), it will be easier and smoother.
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Switching between Openreach and cable providers
A customer moving away from one Openreach network provider, say BT, to another Openreach network provider, say EE, will benefit from the easier switching process.
However, customers moving between Openreach and cable providers will need to cancel their contract and could be asked to provide a Mac code for the new supplier.
This will be the case whether you have a separate landline and broadband package or you have both with just one provider. But, if you choose to keep your existing phone number, your new provider should notify the old one that the service is being transferred and usually in this circumstance, you wouldn't need to notify it you're leaving.
'This will make a real difference for consumers'
The move comes as Ofcom says the current process for switching leaves customers confused and can be time-consuming, both of which could deter people from moving to a better deal.
Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, says "The new process puts the responsibility for the switching process in the hands of the provider the customer is joining.
"This will make a real difference for consumers, and will encourage more people to take advantage of very strong competition in the landline and broadband markets."