Under new legislation, all telecoms operators and service providers are now required to let customers keep their telephone number when changing companies.
Customers will have the right to change operator and keep their ordinary geographic number eg beginning 01 or 02 when they remain at the same address. Companies may also allow customers to keep their ordinary number when changing telephone supplier and changing address at the same time.
The new measures mean that consumers and businesses can shop around to find which telephone company offers them the best deal, without the inconvenience of having to change their telephone number.
Director general of telecommunications David Edmonds said: 'Up until now, having to change your telephone number is a major disincentive for people that want to switch to a different telephone company.
'All telephone companies must now allow their customers to take their telephone number with them when they move to a different telephone operator. Businesses that have freephone or special rate numbers will also be able to keep their numbers if they switch operators.
'The guarantee that telephone numbers can be kept makes it easier for consumers to take advantage of the wide range of deals available from the numerous companies offering services in the fixed telecoms market.'
'Numbering directive - number portability requirements' is available on OFTEL's website at: www.oftel.gov.uk. The statement follows a joint OFTEL / DTI public consultation including draft legislation (Regulations and licence modification) necessary to implement the number portability requirements of directive 98/61/EC, the EC numbering directive.
Number portability for fixed services has been available in the United Kingdom for a number of years where telephone companies have chosen to provide it. The new legislation makes an important change in allowing customers taken on by telephone companies to require them to provide number portability.
Services using non-geographic numbers eg freephone numbers (080), local and national rate numbers (0845 and 0870), new personal numbers (070) and premium rate numbers (090) are also covered under the new arrangements. Customers can keep these numbers when changing operator and address.
Mobile and paging numbers are not covered by the directive. However, numbers for mobile services are already portable between the mobile operators in the UK.