Advanced Television

Ofcom plans to ease multi-play switching

August 1, 2016

Customers of landline, broadband and pay-TV services would be able to switch from one network to another with greater ease and confidence, under proposals from UK comms regulator Ofcom.

According to the watchdog, people can face particular problems when switching between providers whose services are delivered using different networks. Some are even put off switching entirely because of concerns about the process.

So Ofcom is proposing to help consumers switch landline, broadband and pay-TV services – either in isolation or as a ‘bundle’ – between companies using the Openreach telecoms network, KCOM in Hull, Virgin Media cable and Sky satellite.

Ofcom estimates that around 884,000 switches are made between these networks every year, but there is currently no formal switching process to help people.

Instead, a customer must contact their existing provider to cancel their service or services, as well as their new provider to arrange the start of the new service.

Switching difficulties

Most people who switched between different networks said they found it ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ easy (81 per cent). But, when probed further about their experiences, almost eight in 10 (79 per cent) said they encountered some kind of difficulty during the process.

This included problems cancelling their previous service (reported by 38 per cent of cross-network switchers); while 17 per cent lost service1 on average for around a week during the switch.

Moreover, more than one in five (22 per cent) double-paid by an average of £22 as a result of their old and new contracts overlapping.

Options for easier, more reliable switching

To address this consumer harm and support competition in the market, Ofcom is today outlining two alternative options to make it easier and more reliable to switch services between the Openreach, KCOM, Virgin Media cable and Sky satellite networks.

  • Preferred option: Ofcom’s preferred option is a simple ‘one-stop’ process for switching. This would place responsibility for the coordination of the switch entirely in the hands of a customer’s new provider. The customer would only need to deal with the company they were switching to.
  • Alternative option: Ofcom is also seeking views on an enhanced version of the existing arrangements for switching between networks. Under this proposal, customers would still have to contact their existing provider to cancel their service or services, but could do so without having to speak to them on the phone. Ofcom would require providers to offer a wider range of cancellation channels – for example, via webchat or an online account.

Ofcom proposes that both these options would reduce loss of service and double paying because:

  • the consumer’s new provider would be required to coordinate with the losing provider to ensure their old service is not switched off until the new service is active; and
  • any notice period owed to the old provider would come to an end on the date of the switch, to avoid contracts overlapping and prevent the consumer from paying for two services at once.

Ofcom is seeking views on these options by 21 October 2016. It will then consider all available evidence before publishing its decision by summer 2017.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “People should be able to switch easily to take advantage of the best deals in the market. We’ve already improved the switching experience for millions of landline and broadband customers. Now we’re consulting on making it easier and more reliable for telecoms and TV customers to switch between different networks – including when their services are bundled on to one bill.”

Categories: Articles, Broadband, Broadcast, Business, Cable, Consumer Behaviour, DTH/Satellite, ISP, Markets, Pay TV, Policy, Regulation, Research, Telco