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One year since Ofcom General Condition 22 came into force
Wednesday 13 February 2008 13:31:19 by Andrew Ferguson

It was one year ago on Valentine's Day 2007 that the Ofcom General Condition 22 came into force. GC22 lays out the way migrations between broadband providers should happen.

It should be pointed that the Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) process itself has existed a lot longer than this, but the changes last year made the issuing of MAC codes compulsory for IPstream, Datastream and shared LLU (SMPF) connections. Fully unbundled connections as used by Talk Talk and to a lesser extent Tiscali are not part of the process since at the time the processes were not fully developed.

At the time the rules for migration were created the bundling of broadband with other services was still fairly new, but now it is a large complex market. This has been noted by Ofcom who commissioned a study by Deloitte looking at the creation of a single switching process encompassing a wider range of services than just broadband. The danger with any new processes is that if too much power is given to the gaining provider, "slamming" (the process of mis-selling where a customer has not given express consent) becomes easier, either by genuine mistake or sales people chasing monthly targets.

The area causing the most confusion is that of unbundled (LLU) lines as there are two types of unbundled services. A "fully unbundled" (MPF) service is where the telephone line and broadband both connect to the providers own hardware whilst "shared" (SMPF - sometimes called partially unbundled) is where only the broadband element is unbundled.

Moving between a shared LLU provider and IPStream / Datastream connections can be done with a MAC but may incur an ADSL activation charge from the new ISP. The background process is called 'Provide with MAC' and has existed since December 2006.

Moving away from a fully unbundled connection requires the telephone service to be re-connected in addition to the broadband service and uses a process known as simultaneous provide. This requires you to obtain a Linked Order Reference Number (LORN) from either the new broadband provider or telephone provider, which is then used to link the ADSL and telephone orders together.

The costs of a simultaneous provide can be significant as it requires the payment of activation of a BT telephone line (either via BT Retail or another wholesale line rental provider) and this varies between around £60 and £125 depending on current offers and contract length. In addition there is the ADSL activation charge which varies between free and £58.75.

Now if you add a mobile phone or other service into the equation you can see how complex the problem can be, and to some extent this is why companies are promoting bundles heavily, they know that retention is better if you lock customers into more and more products. In the short term monthly savings can be achieved, but in the case of a fully unbundled connection if it costs £150 or more to go back to another provider at a later date this can wipe out a lot of the savings.

One area that providers need to brush up on is the awareness of the switching processes. Some providers have been known to reject a MAC from a shared LLU line as invalid. This is probably down to a providers own systems not being updated to accept the full range of codes that can be generated. Under current rules while a gaining provider is expected to provide reasonable assistance, they are not under the same obligations to accept a MAC from a customer.

A final comment for those who have dutifully obtained their MAC and are moving to a fully unbundled provider such as Talk Talk, note that they do not actually need the MAC. All Talk Talk need to know is that you want to move to them. This ease of migration to fully unbundled networks comes at a penalty--Every now and then someone pops up whose broadband service has mistakenly been moved.

This complex range of systems clearly illustrates that a unified system would go far to help consumers switch suppliers easily. Co-ordination of the systems to achieve this will not however be an easy task.


Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago

Oh, you mean "loads of people without their permission and with no idea or warning that they'll be facing a hefty charge when they try and move away".
Posted by grapevine1 over 9 years ago
Andrew Well written piece, could this combination of contracts be considered as "entrapment" and thus render such contracts as unlawful?
Posted by Royahoward over 9 years ago
Does the unwilling ones include Pipex.. who I hear have been dragging their heels in giving mac codes ??
Posted by Clearsky2 over 9 years ago
Ofcom - the industry buzz word for another useless Quango.

Make it easy to switch, but surely that would create an open and fair market?

Maybe I should bag the U-CANT-SWITCH and U-BEEN-SWITCHED-WITHOUT-ASKING-U domain names :-)
Posted by kingbaz over 9 years ago
Looks to me like tiscali have been licking their lips.
And rushing to get customers who were previously signed up to Pipex Nildram And other,s now belonging to them,
On to their LLU sevices to make it harder and more expensive to leave.
Hopefully the customers who wanted to get away from tiscal, have either done so before migration to LLU or are in the process of leaving, before the easier option door closes.
Barry King (ex tiscali )
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
The short version... In a year since the rules were introduced nothing has been done to make moving from a fully unbundled provider any easier and people are still getting slammed with odcom doing nothing at all about it.
Good old Ofcom...... again!
Posted by carrot63 over 9 years ago

Overtly Frustrating Communications Oligopolising Monolith

Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
"It was one year ago on Valentine's Day 2007 that the Ofcom General Condition 22 came into force. GC22 lays out the way migrations between broadband providers should happen."

Unfortunately Ofcom didn't want to dirty their hands with actually enforcing this.

How hard would it be to give customers an Ofcom phone number where they can report ISP's not adhering to the guidelines + then have Ofcom crack the whip on their behalf?
Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago
Ofcom:You have to admit they are good at dropping.

They've dropped prices, dropped customers right in it and look set to drop the ball completely.

It's a free market - free of good sense future investment.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
I'm waiting for Ofcom to rebrand as Communications Control Plus at this point.
Posted by carrot63 over 9 years ago
"How hard would it be to give customers an Ofcom phone number where they can report ISP's not adhering to the guidelines + then have Ofcom crack the whip on their behalf?"

Ideologically impossible for a government so myopically obsessed with the whisperings of big business and the limitless benefits of unregulated markets.

@Dawn_Falcon: you forgot the obligatory exclamation mark at the end.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
Ofcom Switch board Switchboard: 020 7981 3000 or 0300 123 3000
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
^^^ Plans to ring that monday to see if they or my ISP keep me on hold longer LOL ;)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Well i rung them today, worse than my ISP in a way.... 1st attempt phone engaged for over 30 mins.... 2nd attempt ring, ring, ring no answer! 3rd attempt answered I ask a simple question "How can i tell if my line is LLU or in BT hands"...... they couldnt answer, promised to ring back and tell me...... Still waiting!
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