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Broadband switching to be made easier, 'slamming' curtailed

Ofcom wants to make it easier for Brits to switch broadband and telephone line supplier -- and also knock slamming on the head.

Telecoms overlord Ofcom has set out plans to make it easier and more reliable for broadband and fixed-line phone users to switch providers.

The watchdog reckons people who want to switch don't always get a smooth ride -- with one in five switchers losing their broadband service for about a week, and around 130,000 households encountering problems such as the wrong telephone line being taken over during the switching process, or when moving house before your 12-month contract is up.

The watchdog is also worried about so-called 'slamming' -- nothing to do with irate broadband users raging about a week without their beloved Internets -- but rather the unpleasant process of having your provider switched without your knowledge or consent. Ofcom says around 520,000 households had their phone or broadband services slammed in the last year.

Ofcom's preferred option to ease switching and tackle slamming is for a new provider to step in and manage the switching process, including the transfer of services from the old supplier. Slamming would be prevented by the switch being checked and verified by an independent third party.

The watchdog reckons the current switching process can also be confusing for customers, with multiple ways of switching and consumers with bundles having to deal with several suppliers before they can breathe a sigh of switching-based relief. Technical issues can also cause switching woes, according to Ofcom -- for instance if the wrong line is switched, causing a broadband or phone line blackout.

"Smooth switching processes are essential to ensure that consumers can change providers with confidence," said Ofcom chief exec Ed 'I'm going to knock slamming on the head' Richards. "Many people think that the current systems are too difficult and unreliable, which is why we have made it one of our priorities to tackle this problem."

Ofcom's pro-switching and anti-slamming plans can be found here.

Have you had trouble switching your broadband? Or been slammed so hard it made you cry? Let us know in the comments or shout all about it on our Facebook page.