Broadband switch rules made easierWatchdog warns ISPs not to hold up transfers

14 February 2007

New rules come into force today which should make the process of switching broadband supplier easier.

Ofcom has introduced new rules in a bid to prevent broadband firms charging customers and putting obstacles in the way of customers switching supplier.The communications watchdog brought in the new set of rules after it received calls from thousands of frustrated consumers who had problems moving to a rival company.

Most hold-ups were caused by firms withholding the code that enables customers to switch smoothly and with minimal disruption.

No hassle MACs

Now broadband providers have to supply customers with a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) upon request and free of charge, even if the customer owes money. Ofcom has promised to act if it sees any evidence of companies making it difficult for customers to switch to a rival.

Companies that breach the rules could be fined up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover.But broadband industry analysts have warned that the new rules will only speed up transfers for consumers with a broadband provider that uses BT landlines and won’t cover providers supplying broadband over their own telecoms network – known as local loop unbundling (LLU) providers.

Sky excluded

Ofcom insists that leaving out LLU providers such as Sky broadband isn’t an oversight. The watchdog told us that LLU providers don’t use MAC codes and instead use a letter system where both the old and the new provider send a letter to the customer. This system is used by telephone companies and Ofcom believes it works well.

A spokesperson said: ‘We think the system is working well so we don’t want to complicate things. We get relatively few complaints so there’s not as burning a need to address these companies.’

Not far enough

Computing Which? Editor Abigail Waraker said: 'Switching broadband suppliers causes more problems and delays than it needs to. We welcome changes to the MAC system but they don't go far enough. Customers should be able to expect a seamless transfer no matter who's providing the service. Leaving some companies out of the system can only add to customers' confusion.'