Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

U.K. to Speed Up Process for Switching Phone, Internet Providers

  • Business secretary says markets must be more competitive
  • Planned measures foresee compensation if services are cut off

The U.K. government pledged to shorten the time it takes for consumers to switch services such as phone, broadband and financial-services providers by establishing a benchmark of a week or less for the change.

Building on plans to introduce one-day switching for energy companies, providers and consumer groups will be consulted on how to introduce seven-day switching for communications and banking services.

“I want to give consumers more power over switching providers for the services they rely on to make sure they are getting the best deals,” Business Secretary Sajid Javid said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. “The government is committed to creating a system that works for consumers and makes markets more competitive.”

The time it takes to switch providers currently varies from between four and eight weeks for a mortgage, as much as seven days for a checking account and one day for a mobile- phone provider, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said in the statement.

Consumer groups have long complained that competition is stifled because people see switching as too complex and difficult. More than 40 percent of customers who did change providers said they weren’t able to switch as quickly as they wanted to, Cameron’s office said.

In measures to be included in the Digital Economy Bill, customers will also be able to compare the broadband speed and network coverage available from different providers for their property and will be automatically compensated if their service is cut off.

“We are more reliant on broadband and phone services than ever before, so we want it to be as easy as possible for consumers to spot the best deal for them and switch providers quickly and easily if they want to,” Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said.

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