Recurring Issues

Customer Transfer issue

What happens if your telecommunications service provider changes without your consent?

Summary of issue

Customers can complain to TDR if their telecommunications services have been transferred from their current service provider to a new one when they didn’t provide consent to do this. This is known as an unauthorised transfer. This note specifically covers the scenario when a customer may have discussed a promotion with a different service provider but did not actually agree to go ahead and make the change.  

Case study

Barbara contacted a new telecommunications service provider who was advertising fibre installation. The new provider explained that the connection and bundled service would be less than she was paying to her existing provider. While Barbara was only intending to get information at this point, the new service provider interpreted her call as a request to transfer. Barbara did not realise what had happened until a fibre installer arrived at her property. She immediately halted the installation and transfer, but this led to several weeks of disconnection. 

TDR’s view on transfers

There are two industry codes [1] that set out the rules for transferring customers between service providers. The goal of the codes is to ensure that transfers happen smoothly, quickly, and that the customer has freedom of choice.

It is the responsibility of the new service provider (also known as the gaining service provider) to make sure it has a customer’s authority to go ahead with the transfer. The existing service provider (also known as the losing service provider) may not contact the customer, unless very specific circumstances apply (e.g. to tell them the other services included in the customer’s account will no longer operate).

What should customers think about if they want to change providers?

It is important to ask questions. If you talk to a service provider you should be clear about what the next steps are — even if it is to just that you want to think about the offer a company may have. 

Ask your current provider:

  1. When does my contract end?
  2. Is there a fee for breaking my contract? If so, what is the fee?
  3. Will I lose any other services (e.g. video content, email address, power or mobile services) on my account if I break my contract? If so, what are they? Am I able to continue with those services, and if so, how much will it cost?

Ask the new provider:

  1. How long is the contract for?
  2. Is there a fee for breaking the contract?
  3. What’s the best plan for me to suit my needs and how much does it cost?
  4. What are the payment options?
  5. Can I keep my existing landline number and email address?

If you have decided to move to a new service provider you will be required to provide your authorisation, only the named account holder can provide this. Authorisation can be given via phone, internet, email or signature on a contract.

If there are any issues and you think you have been transferred to a new service provider without your consent, you should contact the new service provider as soon as possible and be clear that you did not authorise the transfer. If you experience any issues progressing this instruction contact TDR.

What should service providers do if a customer wants to transfer their services to a new provider?

  • The new service provider must get the customer’s informed consent for a transfer, referred to in the codes as an ‘end customer authorisation.’
  • The new provider must be able to provide a copy of an end customer authorisation to prove authority was provided.
  • The losing service provider may not contact the customer unless it becomes aware that particular services that remain will fail if the transfer proceeds or to inform the customer of any commercial implications under their terms and conditions of their existing contracts. 
  • If a customer complains they did not provide authorisation to transfer their services both the losing and the gaining service provider must enact the transfer reversal process as set out in the Codes.