Mobile phone customers will soon be able to switch provider by sending a free text, under new rules announced today by the communications watchdog.
From 1 July 2019 you'll be able to request a code via text to give to a new provider, and be switched within one working day – regardless of whether you have a contract or pay-as-you-go phone.
Mobile providers will also be banned from charging for the remainder of your contract notice period after you've switched, putting an end to paying for your old and new contract at the same time, which Ofcom says will save UK mobile customers about £10 million each year.
You will, however, still be charged early termination fees if you leave before the notice period of your existing contract.
The watchdog found 38% of mobile switchers had at least one "major problem" when switching, while seven in 10 encountered "at least some difficulty", but it believes the new rules will make the process easier and quicker for customers to switch.
How will the new switching service work?
It will work as follows:
- Request a switching code – You can do this by texting a free number, going online or calling your provider.
- Receive the code – This will include details such as any charges you owe or remaining pay-as-you-go credit.
- Give your code to your provider – You must do this within 30 days.
- The service is switched – This will happen within one working day (if you give your code to your provider before 5.30pm, you'll switch the next working day) and you'll be able to keep the same mobile number.
What does this mean for haggling?
If you're coming to the end of your contract, or are out of it, you're wielding a powerful weapon: customer loyalty. Companies desperately want to keep you, so if they believe they will lose you, you can often get much better deals.
Ringing your mobile provider and telling it you wish to leave is often a great haggling tool, as we explain in our Mobile Phone Haggling guide.
So if you want to haggle after the new rules come in, it may be worth ringing your current provider instead of texting it.
Also, your provider will STILL be permitted to call you to try to bargain with you, although crucially you won't need any details from it, so you can decline and end the call when you want.
What does Ofcom say?
Ofcom says one of the biggest hurdles customers face when changing providers is having to speak to their current provider, which often attempts to persuade customers to stay.
At the moment, some networks require you to ring, rather than visit one of their stores, to leave. You also have to get a PAC code off them to keep your number.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's consumer group director, said: "Too many people are put off by the hassle of switching mobile provider. Our changes will make it quicker and easier for mobile phone users to get a better deal.
"Customers will control how much contact they have with their current mobile provider, preventing companies from delaying and frustrating the switching process."