Ofcom is planning to force mobile firms to make it easier, quicker and cheaper to change contracts

Oliver Gill
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All you will need to do is send one free text under current proposals (Source: Vodafone)

Saying goodbye can be a challenge. And telling your mobile provider you want to leave it can be especially trying.

But today Ofcom, the UK's telecoms regulator, has revealed plans to force firms to make it quicker, easier and cheaper to move customer contracts.

You won't even need to even talk to anyone: Ofcom wants to introduce a system where customers send one free text message to their mobile provider. In response they will receive text message containing a code to pass onto their new firm.

Read more: Official stats: The worst performing mobile, broadband and landline firms

And there's no waiting around either. The switch can be completed within one working day.

The marketing boffins at Ofcom dubbed the new regime "Auto Switch".

Ofcom will ban firms from charging customers for notice periods after the switch date. This means customers no longer have to pay for their old and new service at the same time after they have switched.

The watchdog has estimated this will save Britons around £10m each year.

Ofcom has opened a consultation on its proposals which will close on 30 June 2017. A final decision is expected to be published in the Autumn.

How the new process will work

  • To request their unique switching code, customers text a memorable short code
  • The losing provider immediately respond by text with either the relevant number transfer code (known as a porting authorisation code or ‘PAC’), or with a cancellation code for those who aren’t intending to keep the same mobile number.
  • The text reply will include information relating to any early termination charges, outstanding handset costs, or pay-as-you-go credit balances.
  • A unique switching code will be valid for 30 days. A customer will be able to pass the code on to their new provider at the point they place an order for their new service, without the need for a further conversation.

Frustrating

Research by the watchdog indicated more than a third of people who changed mobile provider experienced at least one major problem while they were in the process of doing it. Key issues encountered included getting through to mobile firms in the first instance and transferring customer numbers across to a new network.

Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussell said the proposals will make it easier for customers to "vote with their feet and take advantage of choice in the market" and "prevent losing providers from delaying and frustrating the switching process".

Read more: Got your number: Phone watchdog probes "deliberate misconduct" and "scams"

Regulators had previously been working on plans to place the burden of switching onto the mobile firm customers were switching to under "one-stop" switching process. Ofcom said these plans would cost the industry £87m over 10 years.

Ofcom estimated its latest proposals would be better for the mobile firms, costing them £44m over a 10 year period.

What are the current rules?

Under the current process, where the customer wishes to transfer their number to their new provider, they must:

  • Contact their current provider by phone for a 'porting authorisation code', or PAC, and give this to the provider they plan to join.
  • If the customer does not intend to keep their number then, if they are on a monthly contract, they must cancel their service with their existing provider and organise a new service with the new provider themselves - known as 'cease and re-provide'.

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