Mobile users will be able to divorce their providers by text within a single working day, thanks to new Ofcom rules announced today.
In its announcement, the regulator said: "Consumers need to be able to switch providers easily to exercise choice and take advantage of competition in the communications sector."
However, it believes there are "unnecessary difficulties" in doing this, and has elected to change the rules.
Currently, users have to call service providers to cancel their contract outright, or request their PAC code if they want to keep their number. With the first provider dealt with, users then set things up with their new provider themselves.
Under the incoming rules, a user who wants to switch can now send one of two codes (which will be identical across all providers) to their current service provider, either by free text, email, or phone call. One code simply cancels the contract, the other requests the PAC number.
The provider then sends a cancellation code, which remains valid for 30 days, along with important account details to the user. The user can then send the code on to their new chosen service provider, who will set them up within one working day, with no notice period charges or other fees to pay.
Ofcom reckons this change will save UK customers around £10m a year.
To give service providers a chance to update their systems to deal with these rules, Ofcom's deadline for compliance is 1 July 2019.
The regulator has been consulting on changes to mobile switching since 2015. It first proposed the new rules in May this year, which appear to have changed little after consultation through the summer.
Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussel said: "Too many people are put off by the hassle of switching mobile provider. Our changes will make it quicker and easier for mobile phone users to get a better deal.
"Customers will control how much contact they have with their current mobile provider, preventing companies from delaying and frustrating the switching process."
A spokesperson for mobile provider Three said: "While we are pleased that there is now a simpler process, we believe that Ofcom's decision not to prevent 'last ditch' deals means that the UK still lags behind its international peers in terms of consumer rights." ®