Britons lost 2.4 million hours trying to leave their mobile networks over the last year, a study reveals.
Research conducted by uSwitch found that over 11 million mobile phone customers switched networks during the last 12 months, but that in so doing wasted a total of 143 million minutes on phone calls and in live chats while trying to leave their provider.
The figure, which works out at 25 minutes per customer, includes time spent on hold while waiting to speak to a network call handler as well as time wasted hanging on for an instant messaging support operative.
Would-be switchers' tribulations didn’t stop there, though. The survey also revealed that the average customer is forced to speak to their network twice before they are able to leave for another carrier.
Just over four in ten (41%) were forced to contact their network twice, while more than one in ten had to speak to their carrier four or more times.
The study lays bare the problems and material loss consumers still face despite the efforts of regulators to streamline the switching process. Moving easily between carriers is worth an average of just £100 to individuals.
In a further indictment of switching process, while 24% of customers switched in the last year just 23% said the process was ‘easy’. Meanwhile 22% admitted they felt pressured into staying, while 21% said they were bombarded with questions.
The findings add heft to calls for the mobile industry to adopt a switching process similar to the energy sectors and, for the most part at least, in the broadband sector.
In those cases, customers do not have to contact their existing provider before leaving and can entrust the switching process entirely to the provider they wish to join.
Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, said: “We’ve heard of all sorts of retention tactics deployed by mobile networks to make people reconsider leaving.
"For example, one in 10 switchers told us the tone of the customer service staff actually became more unfriendly when they insisted they wanted to leave - hardly a good way to entice customers to stay."
Doku added: "Part of the problem is you have to contact your existing network to request your PAC – a unique code needed to take your mobile number with you – increasing the hassle and giving them one last chance at keeping your custom.
"Our data shows over a fifth have never switched because they believe the current process is too much hassle."