A Third are Scared of Making the Broadband Switch

BroadbandChoices.co.uk is calling on Ofcom to establish a robust switching process, which would enforce the joining providers to facilitate the switch over.

One third of consumers wishing to switch broadband provider don’t do so because they have no faith in the process, latest research from BroadbandChoices.co.uk reveals. The findings come as the Migration Authorisation Code (MAC), introduced by Ofcom to allow consumers to seamlessly switch broadband providers, celebrates its first anniversary.

In 2007 the figures for consumers switching broadband provider rose, to 13 per cent (up from nine per cent in 2006). Current statistics show that one in four consumers is looking to switch broadband provider in 2008.

“Many consumers are afraid to switch in case something goes wrong”, says Michael Phillips, product development director at BroadbandChoices.co.uk.

Phillips explains, “Some are concerned they will be stuck with a hefty bill for the privilege of moving, and that they could in fact be left without a connection for long periods – catastrophic for those relying on it for their livelihoods. Others simply can’t be bothered with the headache of call centres, half of which have been shown in our research to offer conflicting advice to customers when it comes to switching.

“There needs to be a radical shake up of the switching procedures. ISPs should no longer be able to get away with bullying customers in such a way that could potentially deter them from making a switch. Making migrations between the multitude of ISPs faster and simpler is a must. A robust system needs to be put in place and we would suggest that, in the future, switching procedures should be facilitated by the new (or “joining”) provider. It’s in their interest to ensure that the customer can migrate to their services as smoothly and as quickly as possible. It shouldn’t be up to the consumer to battle between the two providers in order to switch-over,” he added.

As innovations in technology emerge in the broadband market, confusion still remains over the use of MAC, as different rules apply depending on the type of connection you have. Phillips adds, “It’s ironic MAC codes were introduced by Ofcom to ease the issues surrounding migration, yet Ofcom still cites seven different processes for switching. Consumers have every right to be bewildered and concerned.”

Ofgem reports that around 300,000 consumers switch energy supplier every month with ease, while Broadband switching , which takes place less often (with only 154,917 switching per month) encounters far more problems.

Phillips adds, “Perhaps the broadband industry has something to learn from the energy industry?”

Technically, a MAC code is like a serial number, used to identify your broadband connection within the local exchange. If a switching provider has this code, they can simply move your connection over to their service.

However, if you have an LLU or cable connection you won’t be able to use the MAC migration service to switch provider, although some ISPs are trialling LLU MACs. Instead you’ll have to wait without broadband until your new connection is up and running.

Phillips says, “While the LLU MAC code system is being trialled for partial LLU connections (where only the broadband is provided by an unbundled line) ISP’s are under no obligation to accept the codes and many customers have been forced to foot the ‘cease and re-provide’ cost of moving to a new provider, which currently stands at £58.75. There should also be a move for Ofcom to enforce the rules on LLU MAC so they follow the same regulations as the ADSL providers. If the joining provider was forced to facilitate the switch over then these problems could be eradicated.”

Ofcom has recently published a study carried out by Deloitte that looks into the possible ways to establish a single migration process for broadband, fixed line, mobile and cable services. “With the rapid growth in bundles combining one or more of these services, easier migrations are sure to be welcomed by many consumers, and it couldn’t come any sooner.” concludes Phillips.

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