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Mobile users can now change providers with just one text: Here's everything you need to know

Natasha Bernal
You can now switch providers with a single text message - PA
You can now switch providers with a single text message - PA

Mobile phone customers can now switch their suppliers by sending a single text message, thanks to new rules that come into effect today.

The changes were introduced by telecoms regulator Ofcom with the aim of making it less hassle for people to switch network provider.

Until today, customers were required to ring their existing provider to set the process in motion, which usually led to the company making unwanted attempts to persuade customers to stay instead - something the watchdog said deters people from switching.

Ofcom also found that 2.5 million people experienced at least one major problem when switching mobile phone provider, while seven in 10 encountered some difficulty.

The watchdog said that these new rules will allow customers to control how much contact they have with their providers, and prevent mobile phone operators from "delaying and frustrating the switching process".

But what do these new rules mean for you? 

What is the 'text to switch' system?

This is the new system that mobile phone providers in the UK are obliged to offer.

From Monday 1 July 2019, a customer texting for a PAC code or a cancellation code will have to be sent the information immediately. These codes are valid for 30 days after they are requested.

If a user decides to leave, mobile phone providers are banned from charging for a notice period that run after the switch date. 

How does it work?

Customers will text one of two memorable short codes, depending on whether they would like to keep their current telephone number or switch to a new one. All mobile phone providers are using the same short codes and are obliged to respond immediately.

  • Text 'PAC' to 65075 to keep your existing number and leave your contract

  • Text 'STAC' to 75075 to get a new mobile number and leave your contract

  • Text 'INFO' to 87075 to find out whether you are still in contract or not and whether you will have to pay exit charges

Customers will receive a code in response via text. Businesses will receive a code within two working days.

The reply should also include important information about early termination charges, handset costs and any outstanding mobile phone charges. 

These codes will be valid for 30 days. Customers can pass these codes on to a new provider to set up a new account, which should be switched within one working day. 

The old service will end on the same day, and there are no notice period charges to pay. 

How much could I save?

These rules are designed to allow customers more freedom to switch between providers, and avoid racking up unnecessary costs from staying in outdated contracts or notice period charges. 

UK consumers could be in line to save around £10 million a year by avoiding having to pay for overlapping mobile phone services from an old and new provider during an account switch. 

Individually, people who are out of contract could save almost £100 per year of overpayments on their current deal, according to uSwitch figures. 

Is this the end of awkward conversations with customer services?

In short, yes. Although you can still ring your mobile phone provider to negotiate a better deal for your service, you now no longer have to go through the customer service process to switch provider seamlessly. 

You will still have to speak to your new provider to give them the PAC or STAC codes for the switch-over. 

If you don't want to use the text message system to leave, the code requests will also work on your provider's online services.