Ofcom has opened an industry-wide enforcement programme over the delayed One Touch Switch broadband switching process, it has announced.
One Touch Switch – designed by the telecoms watchdog to make it easier for households to change to a cheaper or faster broadband service – has been missed just as millions are facing huge increases to their monthly internet bills.
The new process would also allow seamless switching between physically separate networks, such as from Openreach to Virgin Media, Hyperoptic or CityFibre, allowing consumers to take advantage of more competitive deals.
Once in place, customers would only need to contact a new broadband provider to switch, and would no longer need to speak to their current provider.
Changing providers would also be quicker under One Touch Switch, taking just a day where possible, according to Ofcom.
The regulator said: “We have been closely monitoring industry’s progress in implementing the changes, and have been putting pressure on providers to meet their requirements by today’s deadline. Unfortunately, the new process has not been introduced on time.
“As a result, we have launched an industry-wide enforcement programme, following this failure to meet a regulatory deadline.”
Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom’s director of telecoms consumer protection, said: “Industry has had plenty of warning, plenty of time and plenty of support to get this done. It’s extremely disappointing and frustrating, and providers have let their customers down.
“We take compliance with our rules very seriously, and have launched enforcement action to make sure companies get this up and running as quickly as possible.”
Comparison and switching site Uswitch said the missed deadline could potentially cost consumers £162 a year in potential savings.
Ernest Doku, Uswitch telecoms spokesman, said: “With inflation-linked price hikes hitting millions of people this month, the delay to One Touch Switch is a missed opportunity for Ofcom to boost broadband customers’ confidence and help them get a good deal.
“Almost half of broadband customers want to switch right now, but many will miss out due to unfounded concerns and a lack of clarity about the switching process.
“All of these concerns would have been addressed if One Touch Switch had launched as scheduled.
“Switching broadband providers can save the average household £162 a year. Ofcom cannot allow for further delays at the expense of customers, especially given the current challenges to household budgets.”
Alex Tofts, from comparison site Broadband Genie, said: “This is an absolute shambles at a time when millions of households are seeing the biggest-ever rise to their broadband bills.
“Despite plans for the system being unveiled back in autumn 2021, 18 months on Ofcom and providers are pointing the finger at each other and there’s no new start date in place.
“While we welcome Ofcom’s decision to investigate what has gone wrong and launch enforcement action in the wake of today’s missed deadline, it feels like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
“Concerns about One Touch Switch have been circulating in the industry for months and the regulator should have been far more proactive and communicated better with providers and the public. By not ironing out these overly complicated switching processes sooner it is failing broadband consumers.
“We are asking Ofcom to work with providers to get their house in order and set a new realistic start date as soon as possible.”