Press release:

Britons miss out on £5.8 billion in savings due to mobile switching confusion

  • Almost half (48%) of mobile users haven’t a clue what a PAC is[1]
  • A quarter (25%) of mobile users have never switched mobile network, rising to a third (33%) among over 55s [2]
  • Those who switch can save up to £176 [3]
  • Over 3.5 million UK adults say they haven’t moved network in the past three years as the process seems ‘too much hassle’[4]
  • uSwitch calls on Ofcom to sort out the customer journey and remove needless fuss for those for those looking to switch.

A quarter (25%) of mobile users have never switched mobile networks – rising to a third (33%) among over 55s[2] – as the perceived hassle of switching costs Brits £5.8 billion a year[5], according to new research by price comparison and switching service uSwitch.com.

More than two thirds (69%) of mobile users haven’t switched network in the past three years[5], while a quarter (25%) have stayed loyal to the same network since buying their very first handset[2]. Many state they are happy with their network’s service and reception (44%)[6] but over one in 10 (11%) – more than 3.5 million people – who haven’t switched in the past three years are put off by the process, saying it sounds like “too much hassle” [4].

Confusion reigns as close to half (48%) of mobile users don’t have a clue what a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) the code required to port your mobile number to your new provider – is. Although the vast majority (90%) of mobile users are aware it’s possible to keep your phone number when switching to a new network, three in 10 (30%) don’t know how to do this, a figure that rises to 39% among the over 55s[7].

This goes some way to explaining why only 25% of all mobile users have switched their network in the past two years[8]. The main incentive for the 25% that have switched in the past two years was to chase a cheaper deal (34%), while 25% said another network was offering them better benefits or perks. Almost a fifth (18%) left because their network had poor or patchy mobile coverage or reception[9].

Mobile users who have not changed networks are potentially missing out on sizeable savings of up to £176 a year[3].

The majority (41%) of mobile users say they’d be more likely to switch if the network who was gaining their custom handled the whole switching process for them. Just 18% of UK mobile users said they’d be more likely to switch if the process was simplified by allowing them to request and receive their PAC by text message. Another 41% said that neither simplification to the existing process would make them more likely to switch[10].

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, says: “No matter how tech-savvy the smartphone generation is becoming, the process of moving to another network can still be baffling and somewhat intimidating. As it stands, the responsibility falls to the customer to contact their current provider to request their PAC – and more than likely having to run the retentions gauntlet. Unless you can’t get a signal, for many it may feel this is simply not worth the effort – the upshot being they’re likely to just stick on their current plan, and miss out on potentially huge monetary savings or a better suited tariff.

“The news that Ofcom is looking to finesse this process can’t come soon enough. Of the two options, the numbers clearly suggest that consumers favour changing the switching process so the gaining network drives it. That should make providers work that little bit harder to win and proactively keep your business. Plus, this would lift the burden on mobile users so they can reap the benefits of moving to a more suitable package, without any of the associated hassle.”

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

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Notes to editors

uSwitch.com surveyed 2,011 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+ via Opinium. Data was collected 10-14 February 2017. Our results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria – all questions unless mentioned went to mobile users or those responsible or jointly responsible for choosing and paying for their mobile contract / provider.

 1.        Respondents were asked: Do you know what a PAC code is?” – 48% answeredNo

2.        Respondents were asked: When did you last switch from one mobile network to another?” – 25% of all respondents answeredI have never switched mobile network, and 33% of respondents aged 55+ answeredNever.

3.        Between 1 June 2016 and 31 September 2016, at least 10% of people who switched 24 month contracts on the following mobile devices with uSwitch saved up to £176 versus switching with the mobile phone networks directly: iPhone 5S; iPhone 6; iPhone 6 Plus; iPhone 6S; iPhone 6S Plus; iPhone SE, Samsung Galaxy S6; Samsung Galaxy S7; and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Average saving per year. Correct as of December 2016.

4.        Respondents were asked: When did you last switch from one mobile network to another?” – 69% of respondents answered eitherI have never switched mobile network, Within the last 3 years’,Within the last 4 years, Within the last 5 years orMore than 5 years ago.

These respondents were then asked: You mentioned you have not switched mobile network within the last 3 years, why is this?” – 11% – or 3,548,544 people – answeredThe process seems like too much of a hassle.

According to ONS there are 51,339,161 adults in the UK aged 18 and over. According to Ofcom 93% of adults personally own/use a mobile in the UK. 93% of 51,339,161= 47,745,420. Of these 69% have not switched network in the past 3 years. 69% of 47,745,420 = 33,104,180. 11% of these are put off by the hassle. 11% of 33,104,180 = 3,589,299.

5.        Respondents were asked: When did you last switch from one mobile network to another?” – 69% of respondents answered eitherI have never switched mobile network, Within the last 3 years’, Within the last 4 years, Within the last 5 years orMore than 5 years ago.

According to ONS there are 51,339,161 adults in the UK aged 18 and over. According to Ofcom 93% of adults personally own/use a mobile in the UK. 93% of 51,339,161= 47,745,420. Of these 69% have not switched network in the past 3 years. 69% of 47,745,420 = 33,104,180. 33,104,180 * £176 = £5,826,335,644

6.        Respondents were asked: You mentioned you have not switched mobile network within the last 3 years, why is this?” – 44% answeredI am happy with my current mobile networks reception/coverage

7.        Respondents were asked: If you switch to a different mobile provider, you can keep the same phone number. Were you aware of this before today?” – 90% answeredYes. 30% of all respondents answeredYes, but I dont know how to do this, and 39% of respondents aged 55+ answeredYes, but I dont know how to do this

8.        Respondents were asked: When did you last switch from one mobile network to another?” – 25% answeredWithin the last 12 months and ‘Within the last two years’

9.        Respondents who had switched mobile networks were asked: What are the main reasons you have switched mobile network in the past 2 years?” – 34% selectedI was chasing a cheaper deal, 25% selectedAnother network offered better benefits / perks, and 18% selectedMy previous network had poor or patchy mobile coverage/reception

10.     Respondents were asked: Which, if either, of the following two changes to the mobile switching process would make you most likely to

About us

Launched in September 2000, uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, broadband, TV services, mobiles and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, car and home insurance. Last year we saved UK consumers over £278 million on their energy bills alone.

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