Shorter broadband terms arrive as EU laws kick off

Operators can no longer offer broadband and phone contracts longer than two years and must port businesses' mobile numbers within a day, as Ofcom implements new EU laws

Ofcom has introduced shorter broadband contract term limits and faster mobile number porting for businesses, to comply with new European telecoms laws.

Ofcom sign

Ofcom has introduced shorter broadband contract term limits to comply new European telecoms laws. Photo credit: Jon Yeomans

On Wednesday, the EU Telecoms Reform Package came into force on a national level, imposing new and updated laws meant to improve internet, mobile and landline services throughout the region. It also implements data-breach notification measures and sets up a pan-European regulatory body for telecoms, called Berec.

As part of its adoption of the package, Ofcom said that from Thursday, providers cannot sell phone or broadband contracts that last longer than 24 months — essentially banning the three-year subscriptions that have started to go on sale recently. Also, businesses and consumers should be given the choice of a 12-month deal, it said.

"Shorter contracts are likely to promote competition and enable consumers to switch providers more easily to benefit from better prices and services," Ofcom said in a statement.

Under the new rules, businesses that switch mobile providers can expect phone numbers to be ported within a day, even if they are moving several numbers. Landline number switching should also only take one working day, after the operator has cleared certain precautions.

"For fixed number porting, switching providers involves certain additional steps, such as measures to ensure that customers are protected from slamming (where a customer is switched to another provider without their permission)," Ofcom said.

If operators fail to keep to the service deadlines, they will have to pay compensation to the customer. Ofcom is looking to the providers to set up their own schemes for this, rather than imposing one.

Finally, the regulator is forcing mobile operators to adopt a scheme meant to make it easier for people with hearing and speech problems to contact emergency services on their phones. From Thursday, people who register for the scheme will be able to text 999 rather than making a call.

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