With 90% of adults owning and using mobile phones – unless you live in a cave, it is virtually impossible to avoid dealing with mobile phone contracts at some point in our lives. As with anything, it is always advisable to shop about and switch suppliers to get the cheapest deals but getting out of any mobile phone contract is notoriously tricky.
With short cancellation periods and often-extortionate early cancellation charges, ending your mobile phone contract can be like trying to escape a maze blindfolded. With what seem like endless loops to jump through and conditions to meet, cancelling a mobile phone contract can turn into a complete nightmare.
Most mobile phone providers will tempt in new customers with the offer of cheap fixed deals, but these are usually set out over a lengthy period – anywhere from 12 to 24 months. Sadly, mobile phone providers don’t always stick to the rules and many companies introduce price increases during this fixed term. Unfortunately, ending your contract early if you find a cheaper deal elsewhere can lead to hefty cancellation charges adding up to the cost of the remainder of the contract period. Ultimately, you are left in a catch 22 and are often better off sticking with the poorer deal until your contract runs out.
Cooling off period
Whenever you take out a new mobile phone contract, you are legally given a cooling off period in which you can change your mind and cancel your contract without and financial consequences. This cooling off period is usually 14 days but can be as little as 7 depending on the provider. If you buy your mobile phone online, then you have 14 days to cancel from the day you receive your handset. You then have a further 14 days in which to send that handset back and the provider has yet another 14 days to issue a refund. If you purchase your mobile phone contract within a store, then they are under no legal obligation to offer any cooling off period at all. However, most retailers will offer a generous cancellation policy but it is best to check this before signing on the dotted line.
Cancelling during the contract
If you want to cancel your mobile phone contract due to poor coverage, service or because you have found a cheaper deal, then you will usually be required to pay an early cancellation fee. You must give your provider 30 days’ notice and the cancellation fee will often equate to the cost of the remainder of your contract.
Good news for mobile phone users comes in the form of new legislation introduced by Ofcom, who are tackling the consumer issue of price hikes mid-contract. Ofcom has now paved the way for consumers to be able to cancel their mobile phone contracts without the penalty if cancellation fees if the provider increases the prices during the fixed term without the consumer knowing this could be a possibility. Consumers are now to be notified in writing of any price increases 30 days before the increase, and now have an out if they do not want to continue with the contract. You do have to be quick off the mark though as providers still want 30 days’ notice of cancellation.
Check the fine print
Even with the new legislation from Ofcom, mobile phone providers are already making changes to work their way around it. Providers such as EE and O2 are now changing the fine print in their contract to include the possibility of price increases, which is the loophole in the legislation. Always check the fine print of your contract before signing and again if you want to cancel to avoid facing unexpected fees. Call your provider’s customer services for more information and they should also be your first port of call if you, in fact, do want to cancel your contract.