Ofcom closes window for feedback on number switching

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EE, O2, Vodafone and Three all sent feedback to regulator as part of review into porting

All four major UK operators gave feedback to Ofcom as part of a consultation into whether changes need to be made to the process customers use when transferring their phone number from one network to another.

Ofcom invited interested parties to provide their views on number porting in July following its decision last year to make changes to the fixed line switching process, The window for contributions came to an end on September 30, with all four networks contributing.

Figures from Ofcom shows that over 9 million UK customers enter the switching process every year and around 1.2 million of those experience loss of service or billing disputes as a result of the switch.

Three sent a letter to Ofcom calling for a change from the current provider led system to a gaining provider led strategy that cuts out the need for customers to communicate with two operators when switching.

A spokesperson for Three said: “Recipient led switching is simpler, easier and is better for consumers because service providers make their prices freely available to all and it benefits customers.

“Three has sent Ofcom this letter to make sure the mobile industry doesn’t get left behind in changes being made to the switching process.”
The letter, which was cosigned by TalkTalk, the Federation of Communication Services and consumer group LetsSaveMoney.com, challenges Ofcom to follow actions the regulator has taken within the fixed line sector and apply it across all sectors.

According to research conducted by TalkTalk, 74 per cent of customers would like a quicker and simpler porting process, with only 45 per cent finding the current options available easy to understand.

EE welcomed the consultation and called on Ofcom to look at areas within the switching process that could cause harm to consumers.
An EE statement said: “We welcome the Ofcom Call for Inputs and highlighted that any changes to consumer switching should reduce competitive distortions in the market (because of different processes) and address those areas where the consumer harm is greatest.

O2 also said a review into switching was welcome and said it would be open to changes to the system in principle, but only if any new system is cost effective.
A statement from O2 said: “The UK mobile sector is one of the most competitive in the world. As a result, switching between providers is prevalent.

“We are therefore not opposed to changing the porting process in principle. However we note that the current switching system works very well, and that the benefits of any change should outweigh the costs of implementing a new process.”

Vodafone told Mobile News that it had briefed Ofcom on the subject of number porting but refused to disclose details of its stance on the proposed changes. The operator has previously opposed changes to the the number transfer system last time Ofcom reviewed it in 2010.

Ofcom will now review all the evidence it received since it initially invited feedback on July 17, with the results expected to be released early next year. An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Ensuring consumers can change communications providers easily is a key priority for Ofcom.

“We’re committed to ensuring consumers can switch more easily on all networks. We’re already seeking views from industry and consumers on the best way to achieve this but changes of this kind in the communications sector typically involve significant litigation and extensive appeal rights, which mean that ensuring benefits for consumers can take time.”

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