Why you want to switch contracts mid-term?

There could be any number of reasons that you might want to switch mobile phone network provider, for example;

  • perhaps you have found a better deal elsewhere

  • the price of your tariff has increased

  • you want to upgrade your phone

  • you're just not happy with the level of signal or customer service on offer

If you use a pay-as-you-go service then it is quite simple to switch as you are not tied into any agreement. Our guide on making the most of PAYG mobile services can help you get the best deal.

However, if you have signed a contract with your mobile provider, you will find it a little stickier to get out of your contract early.

What can I do to cancel my contract?

If you want to cancel your contract mid-term, the first thing to do is contact your service provider and suss them out to see what their policy is on ending a contract early.

Mid-term cancellation policies vary between mobile networks so making sure you are up to speed with your network provider's terms is an important first step. Their small print might affect whether or not cancellation is your best option.

If you have been with your provider long enough, you should be able to leave without facing charges. For anyone midway through a contract term, exiting without racking up charges may be more difficult.

How much will I need to pay?

As suggested, cancelling a contract mid-term means you are likely to be charged a termination fee, which is usually equivalent to how much it would cost to see your contract through to the end, regardless of which network your deal is with.

As such, cancelling becomes essentially pointless as you will be paying out for something but getting nothing in return.

Are there any exceptional circumstances?

Yes, there are several circumstances in which cancelling your contract without facing a hefty termination fee may be possible, these include;

  • You are currently within the first 14 days of your contract otherwise known as the 'cooling off period'.

  • Your provider increases the price of your contract mid-term.

  • In some instances, if you are not receiving satisfactory coverage or customer service your network may be open to negotiations. Further information on cancellations due to poor service can be found within our guide how to cancel your mobile contract if you cannot get signal.

You are able to leave your contract mid-term if your monthly core subscription charges increase without facing a termination fee.

In 2013 Ofcom announced that you should be allowed to exit your landline, broadband or mobile contract without penalty if your provider puts up the cost of your monthly deal and your provider has not informed you of their plan to do so before you commence your contract.

This can be used on any price increase not matter what the reasoning including; increases due to inflation.

It does, however, exclude any additional charges which are imposed due to VAT or new taxation directly levied on mobile phone contracts.

In the event of a price rise, your provider should give you 30 days notice of the increase, and you then have this time to leave your contract without having to pay a termination fee.

Ofcom refers to mid-term contract price increases as being a 'Material Detriment' to the consumer, so will consider cases cited as such that are referred to them.

What if cancellation is not possible?

In some cases, your provider may allow you to downgrade your tariff to the cheapest package available - which will be the bare minimum service with no added extras - for the remainder of your contract term.

However, different providers have different policies on this and most only allow you to down one package per month if this is offered as an option at all.

Ultimately it does depend upon where you are with your contract and how many months you have outstanding on the term to decide whether the termination fee is worth considering.

In most situations, if available; dropping to the lowest possible tariff will be the best course of action; you will only be paying out the cheapest possible amount until your contract ends.

However this is not something offered as a matter of course by many of the major networks and it is worth noting there may restrictions on this if you are getting other free services such as a landline or broadband, and depending on the free phone you were given when you took your contract out.

Could I just stop paying altogether?

No, what it comes down to is that any contract you have entered into with your mobile service provider will be a legally binding agreement, and as such you won't be able to cancel your contract until the end of the agreed term without paying for it.

However although you might not be able to cancel outright there may be ways to control the amount of costs you'll incur.

As your contract is an agreement between you and your mobile provider, if your service has changed from that set out in the contract then you could use this as grounds for claiming that your provider has breached the contract.

For example, your provider may have recently upped the roaming charges on your mobile. Even if this is covered by a clause in your contract, your provider may be a little more lenient on you in terms of levying charges if you make it clear you believe they have breached the contract agreement.

Therefore, it is a good idea to check the small print of terms and conditions on your contract.

Mobile contract cancellation: step by step checklist

Contacting your mobile phone provider in order for them to explain their cancellation policies is also wise; our cancellation checklist will give you an idea of what to ask when speaking with them.

  1. Check if you can cancel as part of a 14 day cooling off period, available on most contracts.

  2. Read your contract terms and conditions carefully and bear in mind, mid-term price rises mean you can cancel without paying the remaining contract as a termination fee.

  3. Reduce your contract to a cheaper, no-frills tariff (but be careful not to exceed your new lower usage allowances as this will cost you more.)

  4. Hunt for a lower priced contract that offers the same, or better allowances and data use this to help negotiate a better deal with your existing provider when your contract does come to an end, our guide; how to find a cheap mobile phone deal can help.

Remember, you can haggle with these companies to get yourself a better deal, our top tips for negotiating a better deal on your contract mobile deal are available within our haggling guide.

How to initiate your cancellation

Each of the major networks provide further information regarding cancellations via their websites. Remember, if you want to keep your old phone number you will need to request a PAC code when you contact you provider and ask to leave.

What else can I try?

If you have not been successful in cancelling but are still unhappy it is worth making a formal complaint to your mobile phone provider in writing.

This may also limit the cost of terminating your contract; particularly if your provider is unwilling to resolve the problem.

Our guide, How to complain and get results can help you formulate a successful strategy.

Occasionally another mobile company may offer to pay off the remainder of your contract if you agree to switch to them (usually for another contract of at least 18 months), though this certainly isn't offered as a matter of course.

Cancelling your mobile contract before the end of the 'cooling-off period' or after having been informed about mid-term price hikes is the only sure way to avoid paying termination fees.

For the majority of us, however, the most cost-effective option is to persevere with your current mobile provider until the end of the contract while paying out for the lowest tariff possible.

How do I get the best deal on my new contract?

Thorough comparison can help you gauge the suitability of the best offers out there and should mean you avoid getting stuck with something you do not need and stop you paying more than you would like.

One of the best value ways to enjoy all of your handsets features is with a SIM only contract; they are very often markedly cheaper and can offer much larger usage allowances than bundled handset tariffs.