Ofcom Toughens UK Phone Number Porting to Prevent Abuse

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The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has today introduced new protections, which are designed to make it harder for dodgy fixed broadband ISPs and phone providers to block or hinder consumers from being able to port their telephone numbers to a different provider.

Under the General Condition 18 (GC18) rule UK consumers are supposed to be able to keep their phone number when changing provider, except in certain situations. For example, it’s not always possible to keep your fixed line phone number when moving to a completely different physical network or exchange area (house moves etc.); Ofcom are working on a new system to resolve this issue too (very important given the future move to VoIP).

Sadly there have also been a number of cases where Ofcom has had to take tougher action (here and here), which has resulted in several providers being hit by big fines for breaching the rules. Last year the regulator called on providers to implement a new “port override process” to assist consumers in situations where their attempts to port a number are unfairly obstructed (here) and this is now being implemented.

How the process works

From today, if your request to port your number is being frustrated, your old provider will be put on notice and have up to five days to resolve any issues. If this doesn’t happen, you can now trigger a process that will enable your new provider to override this obstacle.

First, you need to submit a complaint on Ofcom’s website. This will generate a reference number, which you then need to give to your new provider.

An independent industry panel – which includes the Office of the Telecoms Adjudicator – will then assess your case. Subject to your case satisfying certain criteria, this panel can authorise your new provider to override the issue and expedite the porting of your number.

Protecting customers

Ofcom’s number porting rules protect people from the inconvenience and cost of having to change their phone number.

It is particularly important for businesses, who would face significant costs and other issues if they had to change their phone number, such as needing to change their marketing materials, or potentially losing business from customers who try to call their old number.

The rules also make it easier for people to switch. If a customer experiences problems when trying to port their number, this might put them off switching provider in future.

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