THE GOAL: One-touch switching for UK residential fixed voice and broadband customers, as mandated by Ofcom.
THE NEED: Near real-time exchange of customer data between gaining and losing communications providers.
THE SOLUTION: The TOTSCo Hub with interfaces to all providers.
In 2021 Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, introduced new rules to make it easier for residential customers to change their fixed voice and broadband service provider. The rules place certain obligations on the retailers of these services.
The new provisions
Ofcom’s objective was to make it easier and quicker for customers wanting to change their provider of broadband and landline phone services. Under the “One Touch Switch” process the consumer’s new supplier – the “gaining provider” – manages the whole switching process with the co-operation of the losing provider – the “losing provider”. Both providers must exchange certain data in near real-time so the customer can make an informed switching choice before entering their new contract. To achieve this, communications providers will need to use a single industry-wide messaging platform to exchange the necessary data in a standardised way and within the required timeframe
The regulatory obligation to offer One-Touch Switching does not apply to the provision of business services. There are nevertheless opportunities for business providers to use OTS via the TOTSCo Hub for simple switching.
The One Touch Switching Company Ltd (“TOTSCo”)
Following Ofcom’s decision in September 2021, the industry acted to design a solution that would allow providers to comply with the new regulations. The initial work was led by the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (“OTA2”) and included a steering group that comprised a representative selection of industry participants. Click here for the latest updates from the OTA2.
In June 2022 the industry established The One Touch Switching Company Ltd (“TOTSCo”) as a vehicle to take responsibility for the development and operation of the messaging platform. TOTSCo is a not-for-profit company owned by the membership with the purpose of developing and operating the platform. Any user of its services is eligible to join as a member. For more information on membership, click here.
The TOTSCo Hub
The TOTSCo Hub is the name given to the messaging platform that will carry customer details and other required data and messages between gaining and losing providers.
It is envisaged that the TOTSCo Hub will manage the exchange of three pairs of messages and acknowledgements between the gaining and losing providers:
- The matching of customer details to ensure that the gaining provider correctly identifies the losing provider and end user. This also prompts the losing provider to send details of any termination charges and other switching consequences to the end-user.
- The order for a switch to take place, and acknowledgement by the losing provider.
- Confirmation that the switch has been completed and that billing by the losing provider should cease.
To exchange information with the responsiveness required by Ofcom, providers will need to interface electronically (via an API) with the TOTSCo Hub. The design and specification of this interface is underway and will be published in due course along with test protocols and other information. TOTSCo is investigating the feasibility of an intermediate portal for use by providers unable to interface directly with the TOTSCo Hub. Third party integrators may also provide a route for integration with the Hub.
In addition, providers will need to revise their internal systems and processes in order to interface effectively with the TOTSCo Hub and to deliver a compliant switching service to their customers.
Providers will need to contract to use the TOTSCo Hub, and usage charges will be made. The agreement and charging structure will be published in due course.
Providers of fixed voice and broadband services who believe that they are or may be affected by these new regulations should register with this website. Registration is free and does not lead to an obligation to use the services of the TOTSCo Hub. More than one individual from any organisation may register their interest and we encourage this in order to ensure that the appropriate information is widely disseminated.
Registered providers and individuals will receive the most up-to-date information concerning the progress of the TOTSCo Hub, the development steps that they need to undertake, and pricing and other commercial details, as soon as they are available by e-mail and/or newsletter. Registered providers will also have a clear route to provide feedback.