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Can you switch mobile contracts mid-term?

Overpaying for a mobile contract can be frustrating; especially if you are tied into a lengthy contract. Our guide explains when and how you can cancel your contract and if it will save you money.

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Why do 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;

  • you have found a better deal elsewhere

  • the price of your tariff has increased

  • you want to upgrade your phone

  • you are not happy with the level of signal or customer service

If you use a pay-as-you-go service then it is quite simple to switch as you are not tied into any agreement.

However, if you have signed a contract with your mobile provider, you will find it a little trickier 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?

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 by more than the Retail Price Index (RPI) 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.

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 has not informed you of their plan to do so before you commence your contract.

However, mobile phone companies can put up the price in certain circumstances, for example they can increase your bill in line with the RPI, or pass on increases in VAT or other taxation charges.

These potential price rises should be outlined in your contract terms and conditions, so read them carefully before you cancel.

What if you cannot cancel?

Your provider may allow you to downgrade your tariff to the cheapest package available for the remainder of your contract term.

This means you will only be paying out the cheapest possible amount until your contract ends.

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, provided it's more than the Retail Price Index (RPI) and not outlined in your terms and conditions.

Can you cancel your mobile phone contract if you cannot get signal?

Could I just stop paying altogether?

No, any contract you have entered into with your mobile service provider will be a legally binding agreement, and as such you will not 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 will 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.

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

  • Read your contract terms and conditions to check if mid-term price rises are covered.

  • 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.)

  • Find a contract that offers better allowances and use this to help negotiate a better deal with your existing provider.

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 find a cheap mobile phone deal

Should you haggle with your mobile phone provider?

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 your 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 is not offered as a matter of course.

Cancelling your mobile contract before the end of the 'cooling-off period' 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 to complain and get results

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.

Protect your mobile phone whether you're at home or out and about by finding the best and most affordable insurance policy possible.

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