Customers who wish to switch mobile phone providers will be able to do so via a free text message, following a review by telecoms industry regulator Ofcom.
Ofcom says the change will simplify the process and prevent customers from having to contact the provider they wish to leave. All providers must comply with the new requirements by 1 July 2019.
Best mobile network providers – see which providers come out best in our satisfaction survey.
How switching mobile providers will change
At the moment, if you want to switch providers and wish to keep the same phone number, you have to contact your current provider to ask for a PAC (Porting Authorisation Code) and then pass this code onto your new provider. If you don’t want to keep your number, you’ll still have to contact your old provider to cancel your service.
The changes announced by Ofcom mean you’ll just have to send a free text message to your current provider (or contact them online) to request a PAC code or a cancellation code to pass on to your new provider.
Your current provider must reply immediately, meaning you can switch quickly and easily. The message from your current provider will also include information about any termination charges, outstanding handset costs and/or your pay-as-you-go credit balance.
Ofcom says the change will prevent customers from having to fend off undesired attempts to convince them to stay when they contact their mobile provider for a code.
The new rules will also see mobile providers being banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. Ofcom says this change will prevent customers from having to pay for old and new services at the same time, which could save UK mobile customers around £10m annually.
Do the changes go far enough?
Although the new system is designed to make switching mobile phone providers easier, the process will still differ to that used in some other industries (such as energy) in the UK, where the new provider essentially takes over the process and is responsible for ensuring a smooth transition. With mobile phone providers, you still control the process.
The fact that consumers currently have to contact their mobile phone company means providers can often take last-ditch measures to hold onto them at that point, rather than encouraging their loyalty earlier. While the new system may discourage this, your provider may still try contacting you after you’ve received a code to convince you to stay.
As highlighted in our recent research into customer loyalty, providers can often save the best deals for those who are already looking to switch.
We won’t know whether Ofcom’s changes will affect the way loyal customers are treated by mobile phone providers until the changes are implemented. In the meantime, if you’re not sure you want to switch providers but you’d like to see your bills go down, it may be worth contacting your provider and giving the impression that you’re looking to leave. Learn more using our guide on how to haggle for the best mobile phone deals.