We've got a number of tools in our armoury [Not weapons? Ed.] - Hazel Lewis - UK government minister
BIZARRELY, LAST Sunday (March 16) was the D-day for faster mobile number portability in the UK, but no-one appears to have celebrated it for fear of counter-selling.
Until last Sunday, UK mobile network subscribers had to wait around seven days if they wanted to swap from one network to another and take their existing phone number with them.
From now on, the process should take just two days – although the Inq was unable to discover whether this is just two days or two working days.
According to our mole, however, the change-over does appear to have gone smoothly and even Orange – where there were some doubts – seems to have met the deadline.
Yet none of the major industry players appears anxious to promote this fact to consumers – not even the telecoms regulator itself, Ofcom.
The reason appears quite simple. In the UK the whole process of swapping over a telephone number – ie mobile number portability – is donor led.
So for the consumer, as soon as you ask your existing supplier for the ability to swap networks, that company instantly has the ability to counter-sell and attempt to lure the consumer into changing his or her mind.
Which in the typical UK mobile phone shop is counter-productive. No salesperson wants to spend time persuading a customer to 'churn' (swap) from one network to another, only to give the 'losing team' the chance to win the customer back again.
Consequently, retail stores and independent retailers don't bother to mention the existence of number portability.
Presently both Vodafone and Orange are attempting to fight the whole issue of diminished number portability transfer times through the courts – claiming all sorts of reasons for doing so.
The main excuse is 'slamming' – a practice where existing subscribers are moved from one network to another without their proper consent. The Inq's mole, however, claims that swapping numbers over from the old network to the new network is unnecessary for the typical 'slammer'.
There's simply no real incentive for a slammer to migrate a telephone number. Which is probably why Eire's telecoms watchdog, Comreg, recently claimed that there's no evidence to show that number portability increases slamming.
And in Eire, swapping over a number can take as little as 20 minutes. µ