7/11/2007 10:22:00 AM
Ofcom eyes 'multi-play' port push
The operators' broadband, fixed-line, mobile and TV bundles are coming under Ofcom scrutiny as the regulator looks to make it easier for consumers to swap networks.
The move comes as 'multi-play' services are becoming an increasingly common feature of mobile operator deals as they bid to control churn.
Orange gives away a high-quality broadband service to high-value mobile contract customers, while Virgin boasts of a quad-play service offering fixed-line, broadband, mobile and TV. Vodafone and O2 both offer a paid-for broadband service.
The combined deals can make it more difficult for consumers to move to another service provider.
An Ofcom spokesman told Mobile: 'We are aware of the potential for consumer harm in that area. We will do everything we can to make sure that consumers can switch between providers freely and with the least amount of hassle. We're looking at a future wide-ranging review. We're looking at whether it might be appropriate to have a unified switching process.'
Ofcom has already toughened up the rules on broadband porting, improving services and leading to some providers pulling out of the market altogether. 'We put in place a mandatory switching process for broadband in February this year. Since then complaints have halved,' the spokesman added.
'Clearly the issue of bundling is a very important one – it's a real challenge for the regulator, the industry and for consumers,' said Ofcom. 'In many ways, it presents opportunities and benefits, but it also throws up questions, such as what information do consumers need to make informed buying decisions and what issues are there to switching between providers?'
A Virgin Mobile spokeswoman said that it was in favour of a unified process in principle, but that it had raised its concerns about the need for careful introduction, common inter-operability standards and costs. 'This will be extremely expensive to develop and it is unclear where the funding will come from and how long it will take.'
An Orange spokesman told Mobile: 'Orange doesn't want customers to leave – whether mobile or broadband; however, when customers do call in, we want their experience with Orange to be as seamless as possible. You would call two different areas at the moment. While we don't want customers to leave us or to make churn any easier, we'd abide by anything Ofcom decided.'