Broadband users should find it much easier to swap suppliers when new Ofcom regulations come into effect this Valentine's Day.

February 14 sees the new rules come into force. These rules are designed to prevent broadband firms charging customers a fee for moving to other suppliers.

Companies that put up barriers preventing customers making the switch will now face heavy fines under new Ofcom regulations introduced in December 2006.

In order to change suppliers, customers have had to ask for and receive a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC), a unique number that lets them switch provider with minimal hassle.

Lack of a MAC can leave customers without broadband for some time. Until the new rules came into force, a voluntary agreement left it possible for some broadband ISPs to refuse to provide, or be recalcitrant in the provision of the essential MAC number.

"Some retail broadband providers have been unable to supply their customers with MAC codes when they request them. This might be because the wholesale provider that supplies the broadband service refuses to hand over customer MACs until a contractual dispute with the retail provider has been resolved," Ofcom explained in December.

The new rules will mean that all wholesale providers must provide MAC codes to their customers — the retail broadband providers — upon request, regardless of any dispute.

Ofcom's director of consumer policy, Claudio Pollack said: “Increased competition in broadband has led to falling prices and a wide variety of services. These new rules are intended to ensure that switching is a quick and easy process for all.”