Broadband firms “mislead wantaway customers”

Nearly half of ISP give customers the wrong advice when they want to switch from one broadband provider to another, a new study has shown.

Broadband firms

Broadbandchoices.co.uk claims that 46% of the call centre staff called in its undercover investigation misled customers when they asked to switch to and from fully local loop unbundled providers – companies who use their own exchange equipment to provide both telephone and internet services.

In some cases, the bad advice could have led to customers being unnecessarily charged by both their old ISP and their new one.

Broadbandchoices.co.uk’s product director, Michael Phillips, says the switching process has become so complicated, that both ISPs and consumers are left bewildered. He believes the call centre staff may not be knowingly misleading customers, but are simply unaware of all the myriad switching options because of poor training.

“As innovations in technology emerge in the broadband market, the switching process is becoming more complicated,” says Phillips. “Ofcom now cites seven different processes and needs to clarify the procedures regarding switching to ensure that customers receive accurate switching advice from ISP call centres.”

Phillips told PC Pro that even when his company has contacted Ofcom for advice on how to help switching customers, the regulator has struggled to find the correct solution.

MAC code conundrum

Boradbandchoices.co.uk’s research also reveals continued problems with ISPs providing customers with MAC codes – the number that theoretically allows customers to easily transfer from one ISP to another. Ofcom introduced new regulations earlier this year that forced ISPs to hand over MAC codes to wantaway customers, but they appear to be ineffective in many cases.

“This is ironic as MAC codes were introduced by Ofcom to ease the issues surrounding migration,” says Phillips. “Clearly we can’t rely on ISPs to inform consumers on the best process to follow when switching.”

Phillips cites the case of one customer who moved from Virgin Media to Talk Talk, but continued to be charged by Virgin because the MAC code she provided to her new ISP was rejected.

“Ofcom has given us complete lack of clarity as to who is to blame in this matter,” the customer, Mrs Ferron, claims. “While I appreciate that Ofcom cannot become embroiled in individual cases, I find it incredible that two large ISPs cannot agree who should take responsibility for this incident.”

For a complete, no-nonsense guide on how to switch ISP, see the next issue of PC Pro.

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