Migrations between service providers was easy for a year or two, until the number of unbundled connections started to increase. It is in this climate that earlier in 2006 Ofcom started to look into the migration process and what would make it easier for the consumer. Today sees the publication of a proposal that may see the issuing of a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) compulsory, and a third party method for obtaining one if the provider fails in its duty. The press release can be read here. The full migration consultation documents can be read at www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/migration. The consultation period will now last until 5th October 2006, so it will be some months before we see big changes in the migration sector.
It is refreshing to see that Ofcom does consider the ability for a consumer to vote with their feet and move broadband provider easily is important, and while for IPStream based customers this is largely the case, for those switched to a LLU provider either through their own choice or an upgrade programme by the provider it is often a lot harder. A recent example of the demise of E7even is given, where Tiscali and Netservices did not want to issue migration codes once E7even had terminated their contracts, due to the voluntary nature of the existing MAC system it appears Ofcom was unable to take formal action.
One further area we would like to see considered is providers charging a customer for a migration code, some currently only release the code on payment of an admin fee, or the settling of all accounts. A level of churn in customers is to be expected and should be planned for by the provider and we would like to see an end to the charging of admin fees for issuing of a migration code, in addition to Ofcom considering the issue of how providers re-coup 'free' activation/hardware at the time a customer leaves their service, it can take up to five years to qualify for a free activation in some cases. It would seem fairer on the consumer that hardware and activation fees should not be allowed to be charged back beyond the term of the broadband service itself.
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