Insights Government announces plans to make switching providers quicker and easier across a range of sectors and publishes Call for Evidence.

The Government recognises that currently, there is no consistency between sectors on how long it takes for consumers to switch from one service provider to another that offers them a better deal.

The Government wants consistently quicker switching across all major services and has published proposals that could allow consumers to switch provider in a week or less.  The Government is asking consumers and industry for evidence of how these proposals could be implemented and new rules could be in place as soon as next year.

The Call for Evidence looks at how long it takes for people to switch providers across a number of markets, including energy, broadband, mobile phones, current accounts and mortgages, and asks what more could be done to speed the process up.

The document also seeks views on a range of other proposals to help consumers, including requiring that customers should be able to cancel contracts online if they signed up for them online.  The Government says that it will meet with industry bodies in the coming months to discuss how the proposals could be taken forward.

Consumers will also be able to unlock their phone at the end of the contract for free after agreement has been reached with major mobile providers.  This means it will be easier to change providers, but keep an existing handset.  Overall, handset owners spend an estimated £48 million a year unlocking their phones.

Under proposals to be brought forward in the Digital Economy Bill, the Government is also taking steps to improve the experience for broadband and mobile phone customers:

  • customers will be able to check broadband and network coverage information for individual properties, finding out not only what speed they are getting, but also what speed their house could get from other providers. Online property search portals will be able to display this data, making it easier to compare available broadband speeds when moving house;
  • legislation in the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill will mean that consumers will only have to deal with their new provider in order to switch, with no need to contact the old provider to exit contracts; and
  • when things go wrong, consumers will also be automatically compensated by their telecommunications provider. This could include, for instance, when a telecoms package is not brought online on the day it was promised, is offline for a couple of days, or if the repair-person does not turn up.

The Call for Evidence closes on 23 June 2016.

To read the Government’s press release in full and for a link to the Call for Evidence documentation, click here.