One small step closer to easier broadband and telephone switching
The launch of a full LLU service by TalkTalk in April 2006 saw demand for the product explode in the UK, and with Sky adopting full LLU as standard from September 2011, the need for a simple way for consumers to switch their broadband and telephone service back to another provider once out of contract is some years overdue.
Ofcom launched its first consultation into a new migration process in 2010, and it appears we can expect in the next few days (if the early February 2012 deadline is to be met) a second consultation. Apparently the delay in the publication was caused by the complex issues arising from the multitude of switching options available in the market.
If it takes Ofcom 18 months from one consultation to another, then it would suggest that Ofcom has allowed processes unfit for the market to remain in place for a long time. A lot of the confusion stems from two types of LLU service existing:
- Shared LLU (SMPF) where the voice phone service remains connected to BT hardware, allowing for WLR products or CPS, with their relative ease of switching. Only the broadband is unbundled connecting it to the providers own hardware, and switching onto and away from a shared LLU service is straight forward using the Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) process.
- Full LLU (MPF). both voice and broadband are connected to the providers hardware at the exchange. Moving to a full LLU service requires no codes from the losing provider, which sometimes leads to confusion over when billing should finish, resulting in the consumer over paying for overlapping services. Moving from one full LLU provider to another one is pretty straight forward, in fact the ease of switching can lead to slamming. Leaving a full LLU service, means finding a suitable telephone provider and broadband provider, many people end up going back to BT Retail for the phone line as they are keener than many others to handle the move. It is not unusual for people to be without broadband for a couple of weeks when moving away from a full LLU service.
Lets hope Ofcom arrives at a process that works for the consumer rather than just being the minimum the industry is prepared to do, is cheap, simple to use, and guards against over keen sales staff. Switching should focus on presenting a simple process to the consumer, and providers who do not follow the procedures should suffer penalties. Ofcom has in the past taken action where providers transgress, but only after months of problems, we would like to see incentives for providers to follow the rules all the time, e.g. penalties for breaking the rules on a per end-user basis. Fingers crossed Ofcom will ensure that whatever processes they arrive at, also work with fibre products and ensure number portability.