All broadband switches would be led by the new provider under Ofcom's proposals, which seek to avoid customers being without an internet connection or having to pay two providers
An end could be in sight to the problems experienced by households trying to switch broadband providers, if proposals from the telecoms regulator are put into effect.
Ofcom has put forward a set of measures to make changing broadband and landline providers more simple and reliable, while protecting consumers from being switched without their knowledge or consent ? a process known as slamming.
Currently, up to a third of fixed line broadband customers find themselves without an internet connection or having to pay two providers when they come to switch, while approximately 520,000 households are the victims of slamming, according to the regulator.
Part of the problem is a patchwork of different processes which a broadband user is forced to go through in order to switch companies ? a problem exacerbated by the providers' inadequate systems. About 130,000 households a year are affected by the wrong line being taken over as a result of deficient systems, Ofcom said.
The process has become further complicated by the trend towards bundled services, whereby a single provider offers broadband, telephone, television and sometimes a mobile phone contract in one package.
Under Ofcom's proposals, all switches would follow the same process led by the new broadband provider, and a "third-party verification process" would operate for consumers to confirm their consent to switch.
Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, said: "Smooth switching processes are essential to ensure that consumers can change providers with confidence. Many people think the current systems are too difficult and unreliable, which is why we have made it one of our priorities to tackle this problem."
The proposals, which are being consulted on, were welcomed by consumer groups and broadband switching websites. Adam Scorer, director of public policy at Consumer Focus, said: "We strongly support the plan to move towards gaining provider-led switching processes.
"When you switch to a new supplier it should be responsible for making the process quick and simple ? the company losing the business has few incentives to do this. When the new company handles the move it tends to bring down costs, limit disruption and encourage quick completion, all of which is good news for consumers."
However, Ofcom has acknowledged that involving an independent third party in verifying each broadband provider switch is the most costly option on the table. That could lead to more expensive broadband packages if providers pass on the costs to consumers.
"One would hope that any cost of the third-party verification would simply offset the current customer service costs to providers of dealing with this issue," said Michael Phillips, product director at switching website Broadbandchoices.co.uk. "Either way, the current switching process is horrifically complicated and is putting people off, so something needs to be done."
According to Ofcom, 23% of those switching a bundle of communications services during the past 12 months thought switching was difficult, compared with 4% for car insurance or gas supplier.
The consultation runs until 23 April 2012.
? The Guardian has a broadband switching service. You can search for the best deal here