For too long, consumers have stayed with their energy companies, phone providers and banks because they think switching would be too cumbersome and difficult. New evidence published this week shows that consumers appreciate quick and reliable switching, on an agreed date. Currently, there is no consistency between sectors on how long it takes for consumers to switch from one service provider to another that offers them a better deal. The government is now taking the first step towards consistently quicker switching across all major services by setting out proposals which could allow consumers to switch provider in a week or less. The government is asking consumers and industry for evidence of how these proposals could be implemented and new rules could be in place as soon as next year. The call for evidence looks at how long it takes for people to switch providers across a number of markets, including energy, broadband, mobile phones, current accounts and mortgages, and asks what more could be done to speed the process up. The document also seeks views on a range of other proposals to help consumers, including requiring that customers should be able to cancel contracts online if they signed up for them online. Government will meet with industry bodies in the coming months to discuss how the proposals could be taken forward. Consumers will also be able to unlock their phone at the end of the contract for free after agreement has now been reached with major mobile providers. This means it will be easier to change providers, but keep an existing handset. Overall, handset owners spend an estimated £48 million a year unlocking their phones.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I want to give consumers more power over switching providers for the services they rely on to make sure they are getting the best deals. The government is committed to creating a system that works for consumers and makes markets more competitive. “At the moment the time it takes to switch depends on which service you are switching. I want to hear what consumers and businesses think of making switching quicker and more consistent across all markets.”

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said: “We are more reliant on broadband and phone services than ever before. So we want it to be as easy as possible for consumers to spot the best deal for them, and switch providers quickly and easily if they want to. The measures we are introducing will help make sure consumers are better informed about the quality of these services and the switching process is much simpler. Also, in those cases when things don’t go right, automatic compensation will be paid out.”

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