AAISP’s Novel Solution to SLAMMING in New UK Broadband Switching System

Broadband ISP Andrews & Arnold (AAISP) has come up with an interestingly quirky way of addressing concerns that Ofcom’s new, and much delayed, One Touch Switch (OTS) system, which aims to make it quicker and easier for consumers to switch internet providers, might make SLAMMING easier (i.e. being switched without your consent).

The new OTS approach is really just a more sophisticated messaging systems between ISPs, which expands the existing Gaining Provider Led (GPL) migration system to work across alternative networks (the old system was mostly only focused on Openreach based providers) and to action switches within just 1 day instead of 10 days “where technically possible“.

NOTE: OTS is currently set to go live from on 12th September 2024 (here), which is over a year past its originally targeted launch date of April 2023.

One concern with this approach is that such rapid switches could make it harder to stop SLAMMING, which is a mis-selling tactic that can occur when naughty people or ISPs trigger a switch (migration) of your service to another provider, albeit without you ever having given confirmed consent. The regulator’s existing migration rules are designed to protect against such abuse, but they’re far from perfect and so cases do still occur.

Under the current system, it tends to take around a week or more to migrate between providers on the same Openreach based network, which allows time for both providers to issue notices to customers and also affords customers the ability to request that the switch be stopped. But that’s much harder to achieve via a one-day process and, under OTS, a customer can no longer request that the switch be stopped.

Ofcom claims that the new OTS approach is designed to “safeguard against slamming“. Such safeguards include the requirement for the gaining ISP to take all reasonable steps to ensure that it does not switch customers without their consent, and in particular, that it does not engage in slamming, and that any customer who is requesting a switch is authorised to do so.

In addition, in OTS, the losing provider will be required to inform the customer of the identity of the gaining provider, which the regulator claims “should act as an additional safeguard against slamming.” But plenty of ISPs we speak with remain concerned that OTS could make the practice harder to tackle.

A Different Approach

According to the boss of Andrews & Arnold, Adrian Kennard, Ofcom’s new OTS solution “seems to also stop most ‘anti-slamming’ measures – not allowing a losing ISP to cancel a migration now!” This is arguably a bigger issue for AAISP as, under the old system, the provider could offer customers an option to pre-request that a block against switching be placed on their account to help protect against the risk of unauthorised switches.

The good news is that Adrian believes they’ve found another way of achieving this, which is based on the fact that the new system must match your surname between the losing and gaining providers. The approach is best explained by a new notice on the provider’s website.

Switching Notice

For a long time we have operated an anti-slamming option where you tell us in advance that you do not wish your broadband to be migrated to a new provider. You could then change that at any time.

However, the new One Touch Switching system works differently. We will no longer be able to reject switching. However, to start switching the new provider needs an address and surname to match. They can start a switch process in BT without, but this is less likely as the normal process for consumers, and probably most businesses, will be One Touch Switching.

Because the surname has to match, we now allow you to edit the contact name on each line you have with us. Your name is what you want it to be, so picking any name for any circumstance is your right, and we have to respect that and allow you to change your name under GDPR, even if only on that very specific part of our system – the contact name for a broadband service.

If you change your surname, even if it is to PSJKHGJGEXC, then that is your choice. And any One Touch Switching match request would fail unless using the surname PSJKHGJGEXC.

Obviously this is meant to be for your surname not really as a pseudo password, but, well, it is up to you.

Naturally, customers of AAISP who do this would probably need to adjust that field back to the correct surname if they did intend to switch, but this does seem like an interesting solution to the issue.

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