On 3 April 2023, Ofcom announced the opening of an industry-wide enforcement programme in response to landline and broadband providers having missed the deadline to implement One Touch Switch (OTS) – a new process which will enable customers to switch provider in a day with a single phone call. This is part of the regulator’s work to implement the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC). Although Ofcom blames providers for having missed the deadline, the industry insists that issues with data protection and ‘slamming’ mean that OTS will take more time to implement.
On 3 April 2023, Ofcom opened an industry-wide enforcement programme regarding landline and broadband providers not having met the deadline to implement the One Touch Switch (OTS) process for residential customers.
Background to OTS
According to Ofcom, OTS is intended to make it easier and quicker for residential customers to switch between broadband and/or landline providers by providing a single process for customers who wish to switch and by removing the need for customers to speak to their current provider before switching. Although customers can already switch in this way between providers on Openreach’s network – such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk – the regulator wants to make it easier to move between different networks or technologies. In theory, under the OTS process, customers would be able to change supplier in a day with a single phone call to their new provider. Ofcom hopes that OTS will make the broadband market more competitive and enable customers to ‘shop around’ for the best price and services for their needs.
The OTS process is set out in Conditions C7.18-C7.27 of Ofcom’s General Conditions, which came into force on 3 April 2023. These provisions are part of Ofcom’s work to implement the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), which entered into force on 20 December 2018 and proposed a package of measures to protect end-users of internet access services. In July 2020, the UK Government stated that Ofcom should proceed to enact the customer protections in the EECC, including those related to switching, in full.
Implementation of OTS
In February 2021, Ofcom began publicly consulting on options for a switching process for residential customers and published its final decision, confirming its preference for an OTS option, in September 2021. In June the following year, the industry established The One Touch Switching Company (TOTSCo) to take responsibility for developing the process by procuring a ‘hub’ solution for all providers. However, TOTSCo has encountered difficulties, including questions about how to protect personal data and prevent slamming (moving a customer’s line without their consent). In November 2022, TOTSCo wrote to Ofcom to ‘explain that delivery by the deadline is not possible’, but the regulator rejected requests to delay the April 2023 implementation, stating that ‘we expect all providers to work with them [TOTSCo] and make sure they are fully ready at launch’.
In response to providers not having met the 3 April 2023 deadline, Ofcom has opened an industry-wide enforcement programme. According to the regulator, this will ‘closely monitor the progress of providers; ensure that all developments required for implementation continue at pace; and make sure the OTS process is delivered as quickly as possible to the standard agreed by the industry’. In addition, Ofcom has stated that it may open investigations into individual providers that are deemed to have specific issues – companies could theoretically be fined 10% of relevant turnover by Ofcom if they do not comply.
The industry itself insists that the technical requirements of OTS mean that it needs time to be put into effect. Till Sommer, head of policy at the Internet Service Providers’ Association trade body, said: ‘Our members have been engaging constructively with the One Touch Switch process and there continues to be a strong push to get One Touch Switch implemented as soon as possible’. Sommer added that the process was a major change for the industry, requiring co-ordinated efforts with hundreds of suppliers and more time was needed to apply it.
In short, despite Ofcom’s enforcement programme and strong rhetoric, it seems unlikely that OTS will be implemented in the near future.
Please contact Danny Preiskel if you have any questions regarding the above.
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