Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Ofcom warns phone providers on number porting

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has reminded phone and broadband providers of their obligations regarding the porting of existing landline numbers when a consumer switches to a new supplier, amid concerns that some companies are in breach of regulations.

Consumers in the UK are supposed to be able to keep their number when they move their phone service to a new company, as laid out in General Condition 18, unless there are specific situations where this is not possible, such as if the customer has moved to a different physical network or exchange.

However, notes there have been a number of cases in recent years where this has not happened that has resulted in Ofcom having to step in.

For example, in January 2018, the regulator fined phone and broadband provider Gateway Telecom £20,000 after it failed to allow a customer moving away from the firm to keep their number.

Therefore, Ofcom has written to the Office of the Telecoms Adjudicator (OTA) outlining the regulations and highlighting its desire to tackle operators that do not stick to these rules.

In the letter, Ofcom said: "The ability to retain the same telephone number fosters customer choice by enabling customers to switch providers without the cost or inconvenience of changing their telephone number, and this facilitates healthy competition in the market." 

The regulator noted that these regulations are not new, having been in place for around 25 years, so porting numbers should be a routine part of business that operators have no excuse for failing in.

Ofcom therefore warned providers: "Behaviour in breach of the General Conditions, such as trying to block or delay numbers from being ported, thereby preventing customers from switching away to rival providers, is unacceptable and unlawful."

It also urged the OTA and its industry partners to prioritise the implementation of a 'port override process', which would allow phone numbers to be successfully ported to a new provider if a legitimate request to do this is being incorrectly blocked or frustrated.

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