New migration rules off to rocky start
February 14th 2007 was meant to be a milestone in the broadband industry, with consumers being given a lot more power to change providers and hopefully avoid weeks without a broadband connection when trying to change provider.
Alas, while the BBC reported anecdotal evidence that the new rules have sped things up, this success does not apply to all providers. It seems some providers initially had their own interpretation of the rules, and in the case of operators using unbundling, the advice to consumers has not always been straightforward.
The provider that has shown up the most in our inbox has been Supanet, who were wanting to charge people a £50 fee for providing a migration authorisation code (MAC). A number of people did complain to Ofcom on the basis that this charge was against the new rules, and towards the end of last week it appears the provider relented and is now issuing the MAC without charging consumers.
A number of other issues have arisen in the last few weeks, but not to the same extent as Supanet. Some of the issues have been:
- Problems contacting ISP to request a MAC when their connection is not working. Providers are required to support two methods for obtaining a MAC, and it would seem sensible for one of these not to be via an online portal.
- Customers wishing to leave, but the process to request a MAC is worded to imply customer agrees to paying outstanding fees. While people do have an obligation to pay outstanding debts to a provider, there are times when people are in dispute with a provider and want to dispute the amounts owed.
- Providers saying they can issue a MAC, but there is no point as others will not accept it. Under the new rules if you have a MAC the provider is obliged to make use of it if they can, and if moving to a product where a MAC is of no use they are still required to make the move as smooth as possible.
- One or two cases of a consumer wanting to change ISP but since the ISP was already changing the underlying wholesale provider, a migration was made more complex.
- We have seen a couple of cases where an old provider has mistakenly put someone who has since left onto a bulk migration list, causing a consumer to be moved without their consent. This would suggest failures in how some providers create these bulk migration lists, and a failure by wholesale providers to verify whether the customer is currently with the provider requesting the change.
Overall, the new rules are an improvement for the consumer, but further progress can be made, particularly in the area of unbundled (LLU) connections, where moving between products is still not seamless. Hopefully the industry will work together to improve the problems areas, rather than wait for more draconian measures to be implemented.