As phone contracts get longer and smartphones and data plans push up costs, getting stuck in a contract becomes more and more of a burden: but there are escape routes.
Legalities of cancellation
If you want to cut a contract short, the onus is on you to prove that your mobile phone contract provider is in breach of contract: that means that they aren't providing the service you signed up for. This may sound difficult, but it has happened:
- In the past, consumers have forced switches to cheaper contracts after showing that they were in danger of defaulting (being unable to pay) their current contract. You can use our free, easy to use finance software to assess whether this is the case for you
- Others have been released by showing they are unable to get a signal. That's why many providers now ask that you use a signal checker before signing up
- A final option is to contest unfair contract charges. That means an operator changes their terms and conditions, resulting in unfair losses: for example raising roaming charges
If you think you have a case, you must first give your provider time to solve the service problem. Remember, when sending letters, get proof of postage so you can prove you gave them a chance to resolve your case.
If the matter isn't resolved, and your mobile operator won't cancel or switch your tariff, you'll need to seek help. 102,000 people sought advice on mobile contract problems last year, and with the right assistance you have a chance of cancelling a contract, or receiving compensation.
The first port of call is Ofcom, the telecoms regulator. Their website contains a lot of useful details that will help you judge the validity of your complaint, work out your rights, and complain. They may then take on your case.
You can also seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, or directly from lawyers or consumer organisations like Which?.
Avoiding legal battles
There are sometimes ways to sidestep contractual concerns, both before you sign/renew and during the course of your contract:
- Make sure your contract doesn't auto-renew. Auto-renewals mean you don't have a chance to assess what you're getting. You can ask about this when you sign up, or call customer services. If it does auto-renew, make a note of when you have the option to cancel or upgrade
- Switch tariffs. Most mobile phone operators like to talk about 'upgrading', but don't let that convince you to spend more money. Find out if it's possible to request an early 'upgrade' to a cheaper/more suitable tariff
- Buy yourself out. If all else fails, most operators will (reluctantly) give you the chance to buy yourself out of a contract. This is an extreme option, but sometimes the cost will amount to less than staying for the duration of the contract because companies would rather have a lump sum straight away.
When changing or comparing phone providers, remember to use Money Dashboard to get a clear view of your finances, and work out what you can afford.
Posted by Marc Murphy, Marketing Manager at Money Dashboard.