Phone contracts represent an increasingly big chunk of today’s household spending, as handsets become more sophisticated and our data requirements expand.
And higher charges mean greater dissatisfaction if something goes wrong, or if the handset isn’t meeting its owner’s needs any more.
After all, someone’s life can change considerably during a two-year phone contract.
Extricating yourself from an agreement quickly becomes expensive – but there are situations where it can be done for free.
These are the key things you need to be aware of…
Terminating a mobile contract within the cooling-off period
If you’re within the first 14 days of a new policy, the Consumer Contracts Regulations entitle you to walk away with no questions asked.
However, this doesn’t apply to contracts signed in person, unless the sales advisor came to your home and signed you up on the spot.
Terminating a mobile contract in response to price rises
Industry regulator Ofcom has introduced rules concerning the implementation of price rises to existing contracts.
Consumers must be given 30 days of notice about impending price rises, and they’re entitled to cancel free of charge within this period.
It’s important to stress this doesn’t apply to price rises announced before the contract begin, such as introductory discounts or short-term incentives.
Terminating a mobile contract due to poor service
The definition of ‘poor service’ is somewhat nebulous, but an aggrieved consumer might suggest their contract should be nullified due to unsatisfactory network coverage or an unreliable device.
There’s no legal basis for this, and no allowance for termination due to poor network coverage, either.
Even so, mobile operators will sometimes waive fees if they’re unable to resolve an issue – or if the consumer has suffered significant loss as a result.
Some network operators publish ‘acceptable guarantee’ policies, enabling people to walk away if specific criteria are met. Check your agreement’s small print for details.
Terminating a mobile contract and starting another
Again, there are no hard and fast rules about mobile operators allowing customers to end a contract early if they’re willing to start another one.
However, company A might let a client upgrade three months early, to prevent them running down their contract and then taking their business to company B.
The data part of a monthly contact is often transferred over, though the handset cost will still need settling if you didn’t choose a SIM-only deal and buy the phone outright.
Offers tend to be at the discretion of agents working in national customer retention teams – don’t expect much negotiation from staff in a high street store.
Circumstances where a deal is unlikely
You probably won’t be offered any money off an existing contract if you’re emigrating, or if the handset gets damaged or stolen.
Financial hardship won’t be seen as a good reason to renege on a contract, and unpaid debts could be handed over to a debt collection company – potentially damaging your credit rating.