Consumers are still facing obstacles if they want to switch their broadband provider - despite new rules designed to ease the process, research shows.
A year ago, Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the communications industry, said that broadband suppliers must give customers a migration authorisation code (MAC) - a unique alphanumeric reference that allows phone line-based broadband users to switch provider smoothly - upon request and free-of-charge within five days of its request.
But a poll of 1,480 people who tried to change broadband provider in the past 12 months found that some providers are failing to stick to the rules.
Some 38 per cent of those questioned by YouGov for price comparison service uSwitch.com said they did not receive their MAC within five days of it being requested, and 14 per cent said the code failed to materialise at all.
That is worse than before the new rules came into force: 11 per cent of 3,090 broadband customers who switched over 12 months ago and needed a MAC to do so did not receive the code.
Steve Weller, head of communications at uSwitch.com, said: "Despite the mandatory code of practice being introduced, providers are still dragging their heels at the customer's expense.
"MAC codes not only enable customers to move to a new broadband service quickly and smoothly, but they ensure that bills from the old supplier stop.
"They are so vital that some companies actually refuse to sign new customers up if they don't have a code."
He urged Ofcom to "come down hard" on providers who failing to meet the rules. "If this means issuing financial penalties then so be it," he said.
Ofcom said the number of MAC-related complaints had fallen from 825 in March last year to 517 last month. But it expressed concern that the rate of improvement in internet service providers (ISPs) meeting the five-day deadline for providing customers with MACs had not been maintained in recent months and said it had extended its enforcement programme for another six months.
"Ensuring that consumers are able to switch their broadband supplier quickly, easily and with minimal service disruption remains a priority for Ofcom," it said in a statement.
"Industry players should now expect that Ofcom may proceed directly to individual notifications of contravention without any further warnings where our investigation of an ISP demonstrates sufficient evidence of contravention."