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How to Cancel your Mobile Phone Contract Early

Fiona Leake
Fiona Leake
  | Edited by Tom Church
Updated 15th February 2021

Can you cancel your mobile phone contract early if you can’t afford it or have no signal? Will you have to pay any early cancellation fees? In this guide, we explain how to cancel your phone contract early and how much it will cost you.

Most mobile phone contracts last between 12 and 24 months which is a lengthy commitment. Especially if your financial circumstances change or the service isn’t what you expected.

However, cancelling early can be a very costly process. 

Why would I want to cancel my mobile phone contract early?

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You might want to cancel your phone contract early due to:

  • Poor signal - if the signal with your mobile network is bad, you might consider cancelling the contract due to poor service.
  • Too expensive - if you can no longer afford your phone contract or the price has increased, you might want to cancel. Check out our best SIM only deals for some savings!
  • Upgrade - if you feel your current phone is outdated and want the latest handset, you might be tempted to cancel your current phone contract.

Can I cancel my phone contract early?

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If you wish to cancel your mobile phone contract early, you might have to pay some expensive cancellation fees. However, in some cases, you do have a right to cancel your contract early, without penalty. 

You cancel within the cooling-off period

If you signed up for your mobile contract online or over the phone, then you’ll have a 14-day cooling-off period thanks to the Consumer Contracts Regulations. This means that you can cancel for any reason during the first 14-days, whether you’ve simply changed your mind or found a better deal elsewhere. 

Unfortunately, this cooling-off period doesn’t apply if you signed the contract in person, at your local phone store, for example. 

The cost of your contract has increased

Ofcom regulations state that your mobile provider must give you a minimum of 30 days notice before increasing the price of your plan. If you want to leave due to the price increase, you have the right to cancel for free within those 30 days. 

If your mobile provider doesn’t give you 30 days notice when increasing the price of your contract, you also have the right to cancel for free. 

This doesn’t apply to introductory rates on phone contracts. For example, if the first six months of your contract was half price and it returns to full price after these six months, then you can’t cancel. This is because the contract will have been advertised to be introductory and you’ll have been aware that the price would increase. 

You cancel within the last 30 days of your phone contract

If your phone contract is due to expire within the next 30 days, then you’re free to cancel without charge. If you’re currently a few months away from the end of your contract, it might be best to wait until the final month to cancel so you can avoid any early exit fees.

Can I cancel a mobile contract if I have bad service?

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If you’re receiving a poor signal in your area, you need to contact your mobile provider and ask them to resolve the issue. It isn’t required by law that you can cancel without penalty if you’ve bad service. However, some providers offer network guarantees that allow you to cancel for free if your service is genuinely very poor. 

You should always use a coverage checker before taking out a mobile phone contract. This ensures that the network provider you pick has good service in your area.

Here are the coverage checkers for all of the major mobile networks:

Can I cancel my phone contract without paying?

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If you’re cancelling your mobile contract early, you’ll usually have to pay an early termination fee which is the remaining cost of your contract. However, in the circumstances we’ve explained above, you should be able to cancel your contract early and without paying.

Here are the situations where you may be able to cancel your phone contract without penalty:

  • Within the 14-day cooling-off period. 
  • Due to an unexpected price increase.
  • Within the last month of your contract. 
  • If you’ve bad service (this depends on whether the provider offers a network guarantee).

How much will I be charged to leave my contract early?

How much cancelling your phone contract early will cost depends on your network provider. You’ll have to pay an early termination fee which is usually the remaining cost of your contract. This can be a very expensive lump sum that might make cancelling your contract more expensive than it’s worth. Below, we’ll show the early cancellation costs for each provider. 

Fees for cancelling mobile phone contracts

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Cancelling mobile phone contracts early isn’t cheap and can cost hundreds of pounds. Usually, you’ll have to pay off the remaining balance of your contract in one lump sum, which simply isn’t affordable for many people. For example, if you have 10 months left in your contract and pay £35 a month, you’ll have to pay £350 to leave early. You won’t be receiving a service anymore as you’ve cancelled. So, you’re paying £350 just for the luxury of cancelling early, not getting anything in return. 

Let’s take a look at the cancellation process and fees for each mobile provider: 

Mobile NetworkEarly Termination FeeNotice Period
VodafoneThe remaining cost of your contract. 30 days
Three97% of the remaining cost of your contract.30 days
O2O2 Refresh customers will only have to pay off the remaining cost of their handset. Non-Refresh customers will have to pay 96% of the remaining cost of your contract.30 days
EEThe remaining cost of your contract minus VAT and 4%. VAT is then added to the remaining cost. 30 days
Tesco Mobile80% of the remaining cost of your contract.30 days
BT MobileThe remaining cost of your contract minus VAT, any costs BT save and 1% discount. VAT is then added to the remaining total.30 days
Virgin MobileDepends on the type of contract and the length of the remaining period.30 days
Sky MobileDepends on your contract, anything from £1.65 - £31.40 for each month remaining.31 days
iD MobileRemaining cost of your contract.30 days
GiffgaffGiffgaff doesn’t tie you into contracts and so you can cancel anytime.N/A
VOXIVOXI doesn’t tie you into contracts and so you can cancel anytime.N/A
SMARTYSMARTY doesn’t tie you into contracts and so you can cancel anytime.N/A

Alternatives to cancelling your phone contract early

If possible, it’s best to avoid cancelling your phone contract early as it can result in a very expensive early termination fee which might not be worth it. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives to cancelling your contract early: 

1. Alternative to upgrading your mobile phone

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If you want to upgrade to a newer smartphone, you don’t need to cancel your existing contract. Instead, you can simply buy an unlocked SIM-free phone and insert your current SIM card. This means that the monthly allowance you’re paying for with your contract can now be used with your brand new smartphone.

You could then sell your old phone and gain back some of the expense of buying a new phone outright. This is an easy way to ‘upgrade’ and avoid those hefty cancellation fees.

2. If you’ve got poor signal 

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Don’t rush to cancel your contract early if you’re struggling with poor network coverage. Instead, talk to your mobile provider and ask if they can do anything about it. The poor signal might be due to maintenance issues or upgrades. 

As a result, the network might even offer you a discount on your bills or suggest some solutions such as Wi-Fi calling.

3. If you’re leaving the UK

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If you’re moving abroad, you may have to bite the bullet and pay the early termination fee. However, it might work out cheaper to leave your contract open if you plan to visit and return to the UK frequently. 

Or, you could ask a friend or family member if they’d like to have your contract while you’re abroad and pay for the cost. 

4. If you can no longer afford your phone contract

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If you can’t afford your phone contract, cancelling early will only result in an expensive cancellation fee that you might struggle to pay. 

Our guide on mobile phone debt shows different ways to deal with your mobile debt, such as agreeing to a repayment plan with your provider or getting help.

If you just cancel your phone contract without paying, it’ll damage your credit rating and debt collectors could get involved.

Click here for affordable SIM only deals!

How to cancel your mobile phone contract early

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All mobile providers will allow you to cancel your contract at any time, as long as you give 30 days notice. However, you will have to pay an early termination fee.

To cancel your phone contract, simply call up your mobile provider and say that you would like to cancel early. Some providers will allow you to cancel online by logging in to your account. 

If you’re within the 14-day cooling-off period or your provider offers a network guarantee and you haven’t been getting any signal, make sure you make this clear when cancelling. This way, you’ll avoid paying any early termination fees. 

If you’re switching mobile phone providers, make sure you can get a cheaper deal before cancelling.

You can also cancel your phone contract by text, we explain how to below: 

How to cancel your mobile phone contract by text

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Communications regulator Ofcom introduced ‘text-to-switch’ on 1st July 2019. ‘Text-to-switch’ means that you won’t have to phone up your current provider to cancel your contract, you can send a free text message instead! 

Here’s how to text-to-switch:

  1. Text ‘PAC’ or ‘STAC’ - if you want to keep your current number, text ‘PAC’ to 65075. If you want a new number, text ‘STAC’ to 75075. This will begin the switching process.
  2. Receive a reply from your provider - your mobile provider will then reply within a minute with your PAC or STAC switching code. The reply will also contain more information such as any exit fees if you’re leaving early, outstanding handset costs and credit balances etc.
  3. Provide the switching code to your new network - you’ll have to give your new provider your PAC or STAC code within 30 days of receiving it. You’ll then be switching to your new network within one working day.

If you don’t know whether you’re still in contract or will have to pay any exit fees, you can text ‘INFO’ to 85075 to find out. This won’t start the switching process.

If you aren’t moving to another provider after cancelling, you won’t need a PAC or STAC code. You can simply call up your provider and cancel.

What to do if you cannot get out of your mobile contract

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If you’re unable to cancel your phone contract early as you can’t afford the expensive early termination fees, you have a few limited options:

  • Ask your provider to change your contract to the cheapest option available. They aren’t obligated to do this but it’s worth asking if you’re struggling to pay. 
  • Ask to switch to a Pay As You Go deal. Again, this might not be allowed but you can always ask. 
  • Ask a family member or friend to use your SIM card and/or phone and pay for the remainder of the contract’s duration. 

How to complain about your mobile network

If you feel you’ve been mis-sold your phone contract, have been given misleading information or have received false promises regarding network coverage, then you might be able to complain.

You can complain about your network provider to the Communications Ombudsman. If you win the dispute, you could be entitled to compensation. You can only complain to the ombudsman after you’ve complained to your network and been through its complaints procedure.
Read our guide on disputing mobile phone bills for more complaints advice.

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