Long gone are the days when you could only get your home phone from one or two providers.
Now you can choose from a wide range of companies, and 'phone services can be bought as stand-alone services or as part of bundled deals alongside other services, such as TV, broadband and mobile services.
This guide explains what you need to do if you want to switch your landline to a new provider.
How do I switch?
There are two different types of process for switching a standard 'phone service - 'gaining provider led' and 'cease and re-provide'.
Which process you follow largely depends on what provider you're switching to and from and the type of connection you have or are looking to change to. In particular, if you are switching to or from a cable provider such as Virgin Media, you will need to follow the 'cease and re-provide' process.
The length of time it will take will depend on the services you have.
You can keep your existing landline telephone number when you switch if you want to. This is known as number 'porting'. If you want to keep your number, let the provider you wish to switch to know.
The first thing you should do therefore is contact the provider you wish to switch to, and explain what you want to do. They should be able to give you details on which process you need to follow.
Regardless of the process you follow, you have a 14 calendar day period from the date you enter a new contract with a new provider in which you have a right to cancel your request to switch without being charged.
Below we set out the details for each of the processes.
Gaining provider led process
Under a 'gaining provider led process', your new provider will arrange the transfer for you.
You only need to contact the provider you wish to switch to, who will notify your old provider of the intended transfer - you do not need to cancel your contract with your old provider.
If you change your mind, you must contact your new provider to cancel your request to switch.
Once you have contacted your new provider to begin the switching process, both your new provider and the provider you're leaving must both send you a notification letter to inform you of the switch.
The letter from the provider you are leaving must include details of:
- the services which are affected,
- the services which are unaffected, and
- any applicable early termination charges that relate to the services you currently take.
The letters from the provider you are leaving and your new provider must also give details of the switch, including a reasonable estimate of the date it will happen.
Your new provider must also keep for a minimum of 12 months a record of your consent to switch services.
Cease and re-provide process
If you're switching to or from a cable network, you will need to contact your new provider to place an order for your new service or services.
If you choose to keep your existing 'phone number, your new provider should notify the provider you are leaving that the service is being transferred. In these circumstances you would not normally need to notify the provider you are leaving that you are moving to a new provider (though you may want to check whether the provider you are leaving will charge an early termination fee for leaving your contract).
You'll most likely use this process if you're switching services with providers that are delivered over different networks.
For example, if you're switching to or from the Virgin Media cable network.
If, however, you choose to obtain a new landline telephone number from your new provider, then you will need to contact both your current provider to cancel your contract and your new provider to arrange your new landline telephone service.
You may decide to coordinate the start of your new service with the end of your old service, or you may wish to have an overlap of your old and new contracts.
If you're following a cease and re-provide process, you will normally receive notification from the provider you are leaving that your contract is ending (and notification of any charges associated with this), and you will be given a new contract from your new provider which will tell you when your contract is due to start.
Note that if you use this process and a new line needs to be installed to your house, you may be liable for the cost of this installation.
Switching a bundle
If you're switching provider for a bundle of landline and broadband services at the same time, you will usually follow one of the processes described above.
However, if you're switching provider for a bundle which includes a TV service, there may be some differences - particularly if the switch involves cancellation of a satellite TV service. Speak to the provider you wish to switch to for advice on the process to follow for this.
Some providers require a minimum service period or contract term before you can switch. If you want to change provider earlier than that then you may have to pay early termination charges.
If you are following a Gaining Provider Led process, you should be automatically notified by the provider you are leaving if any early termination charges apply, and an estimate of what the charge will be. If you decide not to proceed with the switch, you can cancel by contacting the new provider.
If you are following a cease and re-provide process, you may want to check whether the provider you are leaving will charge an early termination fee for leaving your contract.
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