Switching between phone networks: All you need to know

Not too long ago, a research study conducted by Qualtrics noted that out of 3000 customers across Europe, over 98% wanted companies to display their contact numbers on home pages or within one click,  97% felt it was important to be able to trust companies with their personal data, 35% believed that they weren't sure if companies were actually listening to them and another 35% wanted companies to respond within six hours once they've lodged a complaint regarding service quality.

Service quality, responsiveness, timely resolution and accessibility, or lack of which, have often bothered UK mobile networks and failure to pull up their socks have often resulted in frustrated customers willing to switch over to other networks. Besides customer service quality, a number of users also complain about not receiving adequate signal when in homes or while travelling. To add to their woes, a number of networks regularly resort to stalling practices to prevent customers from leaving.

Ofcom, MPs and other regulatory bodies have taken note of this in the past and both Ofcom and DCMS have previously supported a campaign to allow consumer rights legislation to be extended to mobile phone contracts. If this happens, it would become really easy for consumers to switch between networks without having to explain their decision to operators.

Until that happens, there are various ways through which you can get rid of your current network for whatever reason and switch over to one which you believe suits you best. However, before doing that, you will need to follow certain standard practices:

Checking exit charges: If your existing contract with your current operator hasn't expired, you operator will charge you a certain termination fee whereby it will recover the remaining amount due on your contract, plus other charges if you choose to leave. Do compare the cost of leaving your network and the amount you will be able to save by switching before you make the final call.

Compare mobile coverage: Ofcom lets mobile phone users utilise its Mobile Coverage Checker tool to find out which networks offer coverage to a particular area which could be their home, workplace or any other place that they frequent. After using the tool, you will  be better informed on which network too sign up to and which ones to ignore. Given that geographical coverage of UK networks at the moment is only 40% of the country's land mass, this tool is essential for all consumers.

Once you've taken these steps, switching will basically require you informing your network in advance so that your network can complete the formalities within the notice period which is usually 30 days. In the meantime, your network may offer you once in a lifetime deals to retain you which will probably be better than any other being offered in the industry, so it is advisable to give them a patient hearing. At the same time, do give feelers to other networks about signing up and hear from them what they have to offer.

Aside from sufficient coverage and lenient pricing, UK networks now offer a number of add-ons with your contract and you should ensure that the contract you've chosen includes these helpful additions. These many include inclusive roaming data and minutes, free roaming allowances, free subscriptions to streaming apps, seamless switching between contracts, cheap additional data and minute packs and seasonal discounts.

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