I’ve Change My Mind About a Phone Contract – Can I Cancel?
It's happened to us all: buyer's remorse. Sometimes that bright orange jacket that looked so good in the fitting room just doesn't work when you get it home. So you trot off back to the shop and return it. But what happens when you change your mind about something a little more serious? Like your expensive mobile phone, or that operator contract that you just signed? Well, it's a bit more complicated than returning a jacket, but returns are possible…
The Basic Problem (and a Warning)…
Alright, the basic problem is very simple. You've brought a phone, or you've signed a mobile contract, and you've now changed your mind. You simply don't want that phone or contract anymore. There's no problem; the device isn't broken, the contract fits your needs, everything is fine except that you have changed your mind (the returns process for defective merchandise or inappropriate contracts is different). The process that you're going to go through depends a little on whether we're talking about just a phone or a phone contract, as well as on how you made the purchase (online or in person), but we'll lead you through it step by step.
A warning first though. We can't guarantee that you will get your money back or be released from your contract. In some cases the law is on your side, in some it's not, that's really going to depend on your circumstances. However, it's always worth trying to get your cash back, as you have little to lose.
The Phone Itself
Let's start with just a phone. You've bought a mobile, and you've changed your mind. What should you do? Well, that depends on how you bought it.
Phones Bought New in Person
If you bought your phone from a shop in person, the store in question does NOT have to allow you to return it. However, they generally will, as long as it hasn't been too long since your purchase. Your first step here is to check the returns policy of the shop (you can find this online or sometimes on the back of your receipt). Most shops have a 14 or even 30 day return period when you can get your money back no questions asked. If you're within this period, no probs. Take your phone in its original packaging with your receipt back to the shop.
If you cannot find a returns policy, it's worth trying anyway. Again, take your phone in its original packaging, along with your receipt, back to the store where you bought it and ask. You may or may not get your cash back.
There are some cases where you almost certainly won't get any money back. If you bought your phone in the sales, if it's obviously been used, if you no longer have the original packaging, if you do not have your receipt, or if it's been a while since your purchase (more than a month or so), you're unlikely to be able to make a return.
Phones Bought Online
If you bought your phone online, you might be in luck. The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 are designed to protect online shoppers. This gives you an automatic 14 day cooling off period from the date you RECEIVE the phone (not from the date you buy it). As long as you're within that period, all you need to do is inform the seller that you wish to return the phone (you can find a template letter from the Citizen's Advice Bureau to show you how to do this, make sure you keep a copy of the letter you send!). Once the seller has been informed, you have a further 14 days to actually return the phone.
Outside of that 14 day period, you're probably going to be out of luck, unless one of two circumstances applies. Possibly the site you purchased from has a longer returns period (check the terms and conditions of the site itself). The other way you might be able to solve the problem also concerns the Consumer Contracts Regulations. These regulations say that the seller must provide you with:
- their business address
- their business phone number
- details of your right to cancel/return the product
If you do not have any of this information, then your return period is increased to a year and 14 days. In this case, your first step is to call customer service for the seller, or contact the seller by email, and inform them of what you wish to do. Be aware that this process could be long, and you may end up needing to get a solicitor involved if the company disputes your claim.
Phones Bought Second Hand or Person-to-Person
If you bought your phone second hand or in a private person-to-person deal, then you, unfortunately, have no recourse. You can always try speaking to the seller, but if they don't agree to give you your money back then there's little that you can do.
A Mobile Phone Contract
Trying to cancel a new mobile phone contract because you've changed your mind isn't going to be very easy, but it's not too different to the mobile phone issue described above. No matter your circumstances, the first thing you need to do is read through your contract itself and note any cancellation periods. Some operators do allow you to cancel the contract within a few days of signing it, though not all do. You can find contact details for major operators at the below addresses, but you'll still need to check your personal contract, just in case there are any differences:
There are two circumstances under which you should be able to cancel that contract with no problems, however, whatever your contract may say…
Contracts Agreed to Online or Over the Phone
If you signed up for the contract online or over the phone, you are again protected by the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 and can cancel within the first 14 days. Simply follow the advice above under the heading “phones bought online” since the process is the same.
Contracts that Go Up in Price
The only other circumstance under which you can freely cancel your contract is if the price is more than you were quoted. The operator must give you 30 days notice that prices are going up, and you are free to cancel anytime within those 30 days without penalty. This rule comes from OFCOM, and all mobile operators know about it, so cancelling should be easy. If for some reason your operator refuses, then contact OFCOM to escalate the matter.
So I'm Stuck in My Contract?!
If neither of the above conditions applies to you then no, you're not exactly stuck in your contract. You have the right to cancel a service contract whenever you like. However, you will pay a penalty for contract cancellation. This penalty varies by the operator but is usually a percentage of the monthly bill multiplied by the number of months left in the contract. Perhaps understandably, operators tend to be quite secretive about these charges. Your best bet is to call customer service and ask them directly what the price will be to cancel your contract. Be warned that if you're at the beginning of your contract, this fee is going to be fairly high. You will also be required to pay off the balance of any phone or hardware you received when signing the contract.
Changing Your Mind
Yes, everyone changes their mind sometimes. But with mobile phones and phone contracts, changing your mind might end up costing you a fair amount of money. It's always best to give these things a lot of thought before committing, and remember that buying or signing online gives you a two week cooling off period!