Telecoms regulator Ofcom has toughened regulations to stop mobile and broadband providers from preventing or hindering customers from moving their phone numbers to different providers.
Under Ofcom’s General Condition 18, which regulates switching, customers have the right to keep their phone number when moving to a new service, except under in certain situations where it’s currently not feasible. For instance, sometimes customers have to leave landline numbers behind when moving to an area with a different physical network. However, Ofcom is working on a system to allow number porting even under these circumstances.
However, some unscrupulous internet and mobile providers have been obstructing customers’ attempts to port their old numbers, in an effort to prevent them from switching. Last year Ofcom fined phone and broadband provider Gateway Telecom £20k for blocking phone number transfers, and business phone and internet provider Cloud M £50,000 for a similar infraction.
These incidents prompted the regulator to establish a port override process, to help customers in situations where number porting is being obstructed.
Under the process, active from Monday, customers can submit a complaint about porting to Ofcom, via their website. The old provider will be notified and then have five days to resolve any issues with porting. If they fail to do so, customers can initiate a process that allows their new provider to override the obstacle and move the number themselves.
This rule will “protect people from the inconvenience and cost of having to change their phone number,” Ofcom said. It should also make it easier for customers to switch, stopping them from being discouraged by the hassle of getting a new number, having to circulate it among friends and family and then missing calls and messages to the old number.
Number porting is particularly important for businesses, which may have to change their marketing materials and signs and potentially lose business if their numbers were to change, Ofcom noted.