If you have ever switched mobile phone service providers before, you know how difficult and time-consuming the process can be. Most customer service representatives are trained to convince you not to switch your service. You have to complete a lot of the steps on your own, such as having your mobile unlocked and obtaining the code to give to your new provider. What should be a streamlined process can take days or even weeks depending on how much time you have to devote to the service transfer.
Ofcom, the UK’s telecommunications regulator, believes that customers should not have to work so hard to get the mobile service they want. They are attempting to implement new regulations that will minimize the difficulties of switching providers. Customers will enjoy a lot more freedom of choice, and mobile carriers will have to become more competitive to convince customers to stay with them.
Ofcom’s Mobile Proposal
The main tenet of the proposed changes is removing the need for the customer to contact their existing mobile provider. Currently, customers must request their porting authorisation code (PAC) from their provider, and give it to the new carrier to make the switch. Some providers have been noted for their slow response time, delaying the process. Instead, the responsibility of obtaining the PAC would lie with the new mobile carrier, so customers would no longer have to deal with the confusion of coordinating the transfer.
An alternative to this method is also under consideration. If it would be too complicated for the new carrier to contact the old one and manage the service transfer, then customers would still need an easier way to make it happen. The PAC would be made readily accessible to customers, such as found in their online account information, accessed by calling an automated service, or requested via text message. This would eliminate the need to phone a customer service representative, and save a considerable amount of time. If you were planning to switch, you would not have to notify your current provider at all under the new measures.
Public Opinion of the Proposal
Ofcom is seeking the public’s input regarding the possible changes in customer switching. They have published a consumer switching consultation seeking commentary on improving mobile customers’ experiences. The document summarizes stakeholder opinions that were gathered by Ofcom’s Call for Inputs on consumer switching in July 2014.
Those who wish to share their mobile contract transfer experiences with Ofcom can do so by filling out their online form, emailing them, or by post. The regulator is still considering all recommendations before shaping their final reforms. If you have a strong opinion about how mobile service transfers can be improved, now is the time to make your voice heard, as Ofcom will be releasing further research in another document in early 2016.
How Providers Could Be Affected
Under the new proposals, service providers would have to set up processes to make the service transition smoother, either by giving customers easy access to their PAC, or by managing the transfer to the new service themselves. While this will likely take some time to implement, it will likely save the carriers time and employee hours in the long run, as they will have less customer concerns to deal with. As confusion decreases, both customers and providers can get back to the daily tasks of doing business.
Competition between mobile providers will also increase, as they will have to work harder to keep their customers happy. With the freedom to switch effortlessly, customers could be lured away by new customer promotions and special offers. Carriers will need to come up with new and inventive ways to retain customer loyalty and improve the overall quality of their service.
These new measures show a lot of promise, in protecting customers and making their mobile experience a pleasant one. However, it appears that Ofcom is taking their time by carefully considering all options before crafting a workable solution. With another report due out in the first half of 2016, mobile transfers are unlikely to change too quickly, unless carriers take it upon themselves to make improvements. By speaking out now, you can let the regulator know that you encourage these changes, and wish for them to begin quickly.