What Are My Rights Regarding the Cancellation of a Mobile Phone Contract?
Signing a mobile contract is not something that should be undertaken lightly, mostly because it can be difficult and costly to cancel once you're signed up for service. Whilst there are some occasions when you can cancel penalty-free, for the most part, if you want to cancel you're going to end up paying some pretty pricey fees. Let's take a look at exactly what your options are here.
Cancelling Within the Cool Off Period
If you're a new customer, then the Gods might be smiling on you, since by far the easiest way to cancel a contract is to do so within the cooling off period. Within fourteen days of signing a contract you have the right to cancel for any reason whatsoever, no penalties, no questions asked. If this is your case, then simply write to the operator (an email is fine, but you'll need a written record to prove that you started the cancellation process within the fourteen day period), and cancel. You'll even get your deposit back if you paid one. This goes for contracts bought online or in stores.
Cancelling When the Contract is Ended
It's worthwhile checking to see when your contract ends since most operators don't tell you when the contract period is over (they simply keep charging you the same fee and providing the same services until you tell them to stop). If your contract period happens to be over then you can, of course, cancel penalty free. However, you'll probably find that your operator wants at least thirty days notice before they'll cut off service, and you will have to pay your mobile bill for that month. Other than that though, you'll then be free to get another contract with another operator. Easy.
Cancelling a Valid Contract
If you're in the middle of a valid contract, then things get both tricky and expensive. You do have the right to cancel your contract, but the operator concerned also has the right to charge you a cancellation fee, which is going to be pretty steep. In general, the fee is calculated by multiplying a set fee (which depends on the operator) by the number of months remaining in your contract. If there's only a couple of months left in your contract then it could be worth paying this fee to get a cheaper deal elsewhere, but more than three months or so remaining and you're going to end up paying a lot of cash to get out of that contract.
If you decide that you do want to do this, then you'll need to call customer service or go into a local operator branch to get started. Before you cancel it's worth asking for your PAC (Porting Authorisation Code) from your operator. This code will allow you to keep your current mobile number even if you switch operators (you simply get the code and then pass it on to your new operator when you sign a new contract). However, once you cancel a contract you won't be able to get hold of your PAC, so do remember to do it first.
Along with the regular contract cancellation fees you will also need to pay any outstanding debts. If you signed an incentive contract that came with a mobile phone then you will need to pay the remaining balance of the cost of the phone before you can cancel your contract. If you're wondering how much that is, then again customer service or a mobile shop assistant should be able to tell you.
Cancelling for a Good Reason
There are many reasons why people cancel mobile contracts, some of them better than others. What happens, for example, if you move house and no longer get coverage with your current mobile operator? What about if you're leaving the country? Unfortunately, there are no laws that protect you in these circumstances, and by rights, you should still have to pay the contract cancellation fees. However, operators do tend to take things on a case by case basis, and if you feel that you have a good reason for cancelling your contract it's always worth calling customer service, being polite and non-confrontational, and asking what they can do to help you. In some cases this can mean that cancellation fees are lowered, so you might as well give it a try.
Mobile contracts are binding, and if you're not in a cooling off period or your contract hasn't naturally ended, then getting out of that contract might cost you a pretty penny. It could be worth paying those cancellation fees if you're getting a really good deal with another operator, but in general, it's best just to wait the contract out.