Nigel Huddleston MP has welcomed plans to overhaul mobile switching from Ofcom, following his debate on the subject in Parliament last year.
Ofcom is today outlining alternative options to make switching between mobile operators quicker and simpler to encourage mobile users to look for better and cheaper mobile contracts and support competition in the market.
Ofcom's preferred option is a simple 'gaining provider-led' process for switching. This would place responsibility for the switch, including the transfer of a customer's mobile phone number, entirely in the hands of their new provider. The customer need only deal with the company they are switching to.
This is the system Mr Huddleston has called for. In his debate in November, he said,
“Consumers should be able to switch quickly, at an agreed date, for free, with access to data in a format that can be easily understood and that the switching process should be gainer-led, eliminating the need to contact both losing and gaining operators. I believe we are unique in Europe in still having a loser-led system for switching.”
During the course of the debate in November, Nigel highlighted many statistics about the mobile telecommunications market, informing the house that:
· About 95% of UK adults have a mobile phone, and we have one of the highest smartphone adoption rates in the world at 75%.
· Just 35% of consumers trust their mobile phone operators, and of the top 100 brands for customer service in the UK, only one of those operators is in the top 50. The level of trust for mobile operators is, on average, lower than for banks.
· 70% of consumers are on the wrong contract for their needs, and that is costing the British public up to £5.4 billion a year more than necessary. In other words, the average UK household could save around £160 a year by choosing a more suitable tariff.
· More than half the UK population have never changed their carrier, and only 6% change carriers or switch each year—that figure is down from 9% a couple of years ago.
· Only a third of price comparison sites contain the best available deals.
In addition to reforming mobile switching processes, Ofcom is proposing new measures to help prevent customers from temporarily losing service while moving from one provider to another. Today's proposals would ensure a customer's old provider does not deactivate a customer's SIM card6 until their new provider has activated their new one.
It also intends to introduce new measures to help customers manage notice periods and avoid 'double paying'. This can occur when customers have to serve out a notice period to their losing provider - meaning the old and new contracts overlap, and they end up paying for both services simultaneously.
Ofcom is seeking views on its mobile switching proposals by 1 June 2016. It will then consider all available evidence before publishing its final decision in autumn 2016.
Commenting, Nigel said,
“I am pleased that Ofcom has answered my calls for a simpler, fairer and more efficient switching system for mobile consumers.
Anyone who has ever tried to switch from one mobile phone operator to another knows that it is a difficult task. The current process requires consumers to almost simultaneously contact their existing provider to terminate their current contract, while getting their desired provider to activate their new one. That is time-consuming and is often so confusing that many people simply give up and do not bother – even though they can save an average of £160 a year by changing mobile providers.
I am sure respondents to the consultation on mobile switching will agree that the system needs to change and that gainer-led switching is the way to go.”
For more information contact Nigel Huddleston on 07789983719 or his Parliamentary office on 0207 219 5814.