Back to top
Back to all articlesBack to all articles

New Rules Will Make Broadband Switching Easier

A new One Touch Switch service will enable consumers to seamlessly switch between different broadband networks, with regulator Ofcom saying it hopes the new rules will encourage customers to seek out better deals.

Currently, customers switching between broadband providers that use Openreach’s infrastructure, such as BT, Sky, and TalkTalk, could do so simply by contacting their new supplier. This Gaining Provider Led (GPL) process has been in place since 2015.

But customers hoping to change networks, such as to and from Virgin Media or independent full-fibre networks like Hyperoptic and CityFibre, faced a more difficult process, requiring they coordinate both the end of their previous service and the start of the new one. The process often left customers without broadband for several days or paying bills for two services simultaneously.

Providers also frequently threw up roadblocks to this type of transfer. Ofcom found that a quarter (24%) of customers attempting such a switch between infrastructure networks, faced attempts from their old ISP to stop them.

That complexity was dissuading consumers from switching broadband providers: research by Ofcom found that more than two-fifths (41%) of people were put off switching ISP by the hassle. That means many are stuck on outdated, slower services and paying high out-of-contract prices.

The new One Touch Switch service aims to eliminate these obstacles and encourage consumers to seek out better broadband deals. Customers simply have to contact their chosen new ISP, which will supply them with information about the switch, including any early termination fees from their current provider. If they agree to the switch, the new provider will manage it, with the new service and old service ceasing on the agreed date.

With alternative networks expected to contribute greatly to the full-fibre rollout and accumulate millions of customers over the next decade, streamlined switching between networks is more important than ever.

“Household finances are strained at the moment, so switching broadband provider could help keep your bills down,” Ofcom’s Lindsey Fussell said. “We’re making it as easy as possible for you to break up with your broadband provider and take advantage of the deals on offer.”

Suppliers must also compensate customers if they are left without internet for more than one working day during the handover.

The new simplified switching protocol must be adopted by all broadband providers by April 2023.

Independent network Hyperoptic, which aims to reach five million premises with full fibre by 2025, welcomed the simplification of switching. Managing director Charles Davies said: “Today is a win for consumers. With ‘one-touch switch’ consumers will find switching their broadband so much easier.

"Ofcom has effectively removed the faff and hassle, which is so important given the busy lives we all lead. Consumers will be in the driving seat, to surf the market and get much better deals, without their existing provider making it difficult for them to leave.”

But BT says the rules don’t go far enough and should be extended to customers whose broadband service is part of a pay TV bundle, such as from Sky or Virgin Media. 

A spokesperson for the telecoms giant said: “We also want the new process to extend to switching Pay-TV providers, so that the benefits of seamless switching are not undermined for those who take a ‘triple play’ bundle of voice, broadband and pay TV.”

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

Read all articlesRead all articles