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Switching phone providers gets easier with text-to-switch rule

Saying goodbye isn't always easy. Ofcom helps you avoid an awkward phone call with new rules for networks.

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Moving to another provider for a better phone deal just got easier.
Sarah Tew/CNET

If you've ever passed on a cheaper phone plan because it wasn't on your network, you'll know that switching providers can seem like more hassle than it's worth. But that's about to change.

UK communications regulator Ofcom announced new rules on Tuesday that will make it easier to switch networks. It says that one of the biggest hurdles in the process is phoning your network to request a porting authorisation code (PAC), the code you need to give to your new phone provider so you can keep your number. According to Ofcom, 38 percent of people surveyed have experienced at least one major problem moving to a new network.

The new rules will give you the option to text a free number to get the PAC, avoiding the sort of phone call that can feel like a bad breakup with your old network. Phone providers will have 18 months to comply with the regulations, so changes should come into effect by 1 July 2019.

"Our own research from earlier this year found that while one in five thought text-to-switch would make them more likely to switch provider, more than double would have been encouraged to change under a gaining-provider led process, the alternative system that Ofcom decided against," said Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at price comparison service uSwitch. Gaining-provider is a proposal whereby the network you want to switch to just sorts it out for you. 

"While it's disappointing Ofcom did not go further, this is still an improvement that will make it easier for more customers to get a better deal," Neudegg added.