We’ve all been there. We see a great deal from a mobile phone provider, offering us texts, calls and data at a fraction of the cost we’re currently paying. We know that we should take advantage of it and switch from our current provider. It would save us money and after all, why would we pay more for what is probably a very similar service. And it’s not as if we feel much loyalty to our current provider, anyway.
But then the thought of having to ring your mobile phone provider and explain that you’re leaving can suddenly feel like too much effort. Is it really worth having that ‘break up’ conversation with a perfectly pleasant person at the other end of the phone, just to save those few extra pounds a month?
And then, when you do get through, the thought of being put on hold when you’re really too busy to be listening to a tinny rendition of Mozart (in fact, when does anyone ever want to do this, even when they’re not busy?) is just too much.
To all those out there, just like me, who know that feeling all too well, there’s some good news…
‘Auto Switch’ proposal announced
Last week, Ofcom proposed reforms that should make it easier and quicker to switch to another mobile provider when you spot a better deal.
Instead of having to call your mobile phone provider to give them the bad news that you’re leaving, under Ofcom’s plans, you will simply need to send a free text message (or an online message) to your provider, informing them that you’re off.
Within one day, you should then receive a text, which would include your unique code for you to give to your new provider. Your new phone company of choice should then arrange your switch for you. You should be able to do this whether or not you’re taking your new number with you.
For those wanting to hold on to your number (I’ve had mine since I was 15 years old!), you’ll get a PAC code and for others, you’ll simply get a cancellation code. These codes would be valid for 30 days, giving you plenty of time to give your code to your new mobile phone provider.
Your text message should also include information about any early termination charges, PAYG credit balances and outstanding handset costs.
Essentially, you should not need to talk to your old provider again.
Problems aplenty with the current system
One of the main problems is that there are currently two different processes for switching mobile phone provider, depending on whether or not you want to keep your number.
If you don’t want to keep your phone number and you are on a monthly contract, you currently need to cancel your service with your provider and organise a new service with your new provider, yourself.
If you do want to keep your number, you will need to get a PAC code by calling your current provider and then giving this code to your new provider.
Under these new proposals, you would simply text your old provider to get a cancellation code (or PAC code) and then give this to your new provider, who will arrange the switch for you. Et voilà!
According to research by Ofcom, 38% of people surveyed, said that they experienced at least one major problem when switching.
11% said that they had difficulties contacting their current provider and 10% experienced difficulties keeping their phone number.
So, it seems that even if you do pick up the phone, you may struggle to get through to someone and, even if you do manage to speak to someone, you could find it difficult to keep your number.
Speed is of the essence with your mobile phone provider
After you pass on your code to your new provider, your new switch should be arranged within one working day.
Great news for us consumers as, if these new rules are put into effect, we should be able to take advantage of better deals with other providers much quicker than ever before!
Operators would be banned from charging for notice periods after the switch date
Mobile phone providers could also be banned from charging for notice periods running after your switch date if these changes go ahead.
This means that you wouldn’t have to pay for your new and old service at the same time after you’ve switched. This could save UK mobile phone customers around £10m each year. Not a figure to be sniffed at.
What will happen next?
These proposals are currently undergoing a consultation process, which will go on until 30 June 2017. Ofcom says that it expects to publish its final decision in autumn this year.
To switch or not to switch…
Until these new rules come into force (indeed, if they ever come into force) it remains the case that some customers could continue to encounter difficulties when trying to switch mobile phone provider.
For the vast majority of people, the switch should go through without a hitch. So if you see a good deal that you’d like to take advantage of, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to switch (if you’re in a contract, you’d need to check the terms and conditions first).
The idea behind Ofcom’s proposals is to make switching more straightforward, so that it will, in theory, be much easier to ‘vote with your feet’ and switch to another provider if you’re not getting a good deal. This, in turn, could make the mobile phone industry more competitive and offer consumers more options when it comes to packages.
Only a few weeks ago, I talked about the ban on roaming charges (for most of us, anyway), brought about by the EU and due to come into force just in time for our summer holidays on 15 June 2017.
There’s no doubt about it, the mobile phone industry is currently undergoing some changes, that are designed to benefit us, the consumer.
Making it easier and quicker to switch should fuel competition between mobile phone providers, who will (hopefully) be jostling for our custom with better deals.
I, for one, will be keeping my fingers and toes crossed that Ofcom’s proposals go ahead…