Mobile phone switching to be made easier

19 December 2017, 15:54   By Samantha Smith

OFCOM have announced major reforms to allow mobile phone customers to switch providers with just a text message.

mobile phone basic
Credit: kyrien/

From 2019 customers will be able to switch mobile phone service via text message without having to speak to their current provider, after Ofcom research found that a significant proportion of those who try to switch mobile provider.

Mobile phone providers will have to work together in managing switching codes, ensuring prompt closure of accounts and no overlap of services.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom Consumer Group Director, said that "customers will control how much contact they have with their current mobile provider, preventing companies from delaying and frustrating the switching process".

How it will work

Customers will be able to request a switching code by texting a free number, going online or by calling the provider. The provider must respond immediately with either a "Porting Authorisation Code" (PAC), if the customer wants to keep their number, or a cancellation code if they don't. They must also include any information about termination fees or outstanding charges at this point.

When customers are ready to switch they give the relevant code to the new provider. The old and new providers must then arrange for the switch to happen within one working day.

Ofcom suggest that this is so easy that customers could request their switching code while they look for a new deal, while on the phone to a new provider or with a salesperson in store. The switching codes will be valid for 30 days.

Problems switching

One of the main problems customers face when trying to switch is that they're required to first speak to their existing provider, who often makes attempts to persuade them to stay.

While special offers are welcome, and "retention deals" provide a great way to haggle down the price of existing customers, Ofcom is concerned that "retention departments" and the time and hassle of switching is hurting competition and customer's ability to make choices.

Ofcom found that as many as 38% of people have problems when trying to switch their mobile provider:

  • 11% had problems contacting their existing provider
  • 10% had problems cancelling their existing service
  • 9% had problems obtaining necessary information from existing provider

Because customers are required to obtain a "Porting Authorisation Code" from their current provider if they want to keep their mobile phone number when switching, Ofcom has decided to make the process easier by allowing access to this PAC code via text and online as well as by phone.

New rules

As well as easier access to PAC codes, Ofcom also intend to bring in additional rules to prevent existing providers from charging for overlapping notice periods, which should save customers an estimated £10m a year.

Ofcom are also ensuring providers give better guidance on switching.

The new rules will mean significant reform of how mobile providers operate, and will require collaboration between providers to implement the new switching process. They've been given 18 months - so customers will be able to switch more easily from July 2019.

Want the best deal on a new handset?

independent comparison

We are independent of all of the products and services we compare.

fair comparison

We order our comparison tables by price or feature and never by referral revenue.

charity donations

We donate at least 5% of our profits to charity, and we aim to be climate positive.

Get insider tips and the latest offers in our newsletter