U.K. regulator Ofcom is consulting on options to make it easier for mobile phone customers to change providers. The regulator is concerned that consumers who want to retain their current phone numbers may be confused by the various processes for switching. Ofcom’s consultation considers several options, including one known as “gaining provider-led” switching, which puts the responsibility for switching in the hands of the company to which the customer is switching. Ofcom is also considering simplifying the process for obtaining a Porting Authorization Code (PAC), which allows a customer to keep an existing number. This consultation is part of Ofcom’s broader aim of making it easier to switch between communications services. The regulator has recently opened an industry-wide investigation into arrangements for canceling and terminating services and introduced a new one-touch process for switching broadband providers. The mobile switching consultation will continue through 6 October.
Number porting is a major issue for consumers in the U.K. and many other markets. In the current U.K. system, a mobile subscriber who wishes to change operators and retain their phone number must obtain a PAC from their existing operator, which may not be very forthcoming in providing it. Under consideration is a measure to put the onus on the operator to which a customer is switching to cause that number to be ported, as well as one to simply make PACs easier for subscribers to obtain. If either of these measures is enacted, we believe the effect on the U.K. mobile market will be positive. Making it much easier to consumers to switch will make operators more responsive to consumer needs, improve customer service, and promote competition. In the end, this will be beneficial not only to consumers but to operators, as well—especially to those that are not in the lead and that stand to win more subscribers with creative offers.