Broadband blues? Let your new provider flick the switch

Deterred from switching broadband provider by the massive hassle factor? Here’s some good news.

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New rules came into effect on June 20 which will remove much of the strife and stress associated with switching.

The market regulator, Ofcom, has flicked the switch so that all the work associated with the transfer is now done by the firm you move to.

That should put an end to many of the wearisome delays and bring substantial savings within reach.

Not everyone will benefit, alas (more on that in a bit). But for the majority, switching to a better deal should now be much slicker and quicker.

Knife the MAC

Switching broadband provider has entered contemporary folklore as shorthand for disruption and frustration.

Complicated switching processes and the need to get a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) from your existing supplier have been at the root of the problem.
But now Ofcom has responded by introducing a simpler transfer system.

It’s known as a ‘gaining provider led’ process, which is a clunky way of saying that your new broadband supplier will sort everything out.

You don’t even have to let your existing provider know you want to switch - and you certainly don’t need a MAC.

But there are still some important steps to follow if you want to switch.

But before we get into that, here’s the detail of who WON’T benefit from the change

Openreach restriction

The rule changes only apply if both your new and existing suppliers use the BT Openreach network.

This covers pretty much every supplier with the notable exception of Virgin Media – which accounts for around 20% of the broadband market.


Ofcom is hoping to extend the simpler switching process to include all providers later in the year. Until then, customers switching to or from Virgin will most likely have to follow the so-called ‘cease and provide’ process.

In other words, they will have to contact their current provider to cancel the contract and then contact the new provider to arrange the new service.

How to switch

OK – if you are on BT Openreach and are switching to a firm that’s also on the service, here’s how you go about it.

First, check whether you will have to pay a penalty to your existing provider (some firms insist on a minimum contract term and you could be forced to pay a cancellation fee if you switch early).

Next, make sure you understand the total monthly cost of the new deal and the length of the contract.

If you search for a broadband deal on MoneySuperMarket, all the information you need is available at the click of a mouse so you can make an accurate cost comparison. 

To trigger the switch, contact your chosen provider who will arrange the transfer.

Your new and old suppliers will then both send you a notification letter to inform you of the switch.

The letter must include details of the services that are affected, as well as any cancellation charges. You should also be told the likely date for the switch, which usually takes about 10 working days.

Remember that you can change your mind and have a right to cancel the switch within 14 days without being charged.

Freefone overhaul

Another Ofcom-inspired change takes place on July 1, when freefone 0800 and 0808 numbers will become free from mobiles.

At the moment, some providers charge for calls made to a freefone number from a mobile.

Also from July 1, landline and mobile charges will become clearer for calls to numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118.

Until now, callers to these numbers have not generally been told by the service provider how much they will be charged.

But prices will become clearer on telephone bills, in marketing and in advertising from July 1, under changes known as UK Calling.

From July 1, charges for service numbers will be made up of an 'access charge' going to the phone company, plus a 'service charge' set by the company or organisation being called.

Phone companies will be responsible for setting their access charge, making it clear to consumers on their bills and informing new customers of the charge when they sign up to a contract.

Separately, the service provider - the party being contacted - will specify its service charge wherever it advertises or communicates the phone number.

This means we’ll be able to understand the exact cost of making the call by adding the access and service charges together.

Currently, callers are given information such as: "Calls cost Xp per minute from a BT landline. Calls may vary from other landlines and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more."

Under the new system, the cost of calls will be explained in a simpler format such a "Calls cost Xp per minute, plus your phone company's access charge."

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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