Cancelling Your Mobile Contract Early: Termination Fees & Alternatives
February 17th, 2016
If you’d like to cancel a mobile contract early, you’ll normally need to pay an early termination fee. Find out the early exit fee on each UK network.
In the UK, Pay Monthly contracts for your mobile phone will normally come with a 24-month commitment. During these 24 months, you’re tied into a contract with your mobile network provider. If you’d like to cancel the contract during this time, you’ll need to pay something called an ‘early termination fee’ (also known as an ‘early exit fee’). Typically, the early exit fee will be equivalent to paying off the remainder of your contract. In some cases, however, you’ll be able to get a small discount on it.
In this article, we’ll look at the costs of cancelling your mobile contract early. We’ll look at the fees charged by each mobile network and at the range of discounts available on your early termination fee. We’ll also look at some possible alternatives to cancelling your contract early, which can be substantially cheaper than paying an early termination fee.
Early Termination Fees: By Network
The exact fee you’ll pay for ending your contract will depend on the number of remaining months and also your mobile network provider.
On BT Mobile, all SIM-only plans come on a 12-month contract. If you’d like to cancel your contract during the first 12 months, you’ll need to pay an early termination fee equivalent to the following:
|Your BT Mobile Plan||Early Termination Fee|
|BT Mobile 500MB Plan||£3.75 for each remaining month|
|BT Mobile 2GB Plan||£9.75 for each remaining month|
|BT Mobile 6GB Plan||£12.00 for each remaining month|
|BT Mobile 20GB Plan||£16.75 for each remaining month|
The good news is there’s a significant discount, particularly for customers not living in a BT Broadband house. Family SIM cards can be cancelled at any time with an obligation only to pay 30 days of line rental.
For full details about the early termination fee on BT Mobile, see clause 46 of the BT Mobile service terms:
46. You may end your service during the minimum period by giving us 30 days’ notice, but if you do so you will be subject to a charge for ending it early. You can find out how this charge is worked out at www.bt.com/termcharges.
On EE, you can cancel your contract early with an early termination fee equivalent to 96% of your remaining monthly payments. This can be seen in EE’s Pay Monthly terms and conditions. From the final page of EE’s non-standard price guide:
You can terminate your agreement with us at any time by calling customer services. Your agreement will terminate one calendar month from when we receive your call stating that you wish to terminate the agreement. You are free to change your mind and call us to restore your agreement at any time during that month’s notice period. You must pay everything you owe us if you terminate your agreement with us. If you are terminating once your existing minimum term contract has run out, you will be responsible for all charges including the price plan charges up to and including the date that your agreement terminates. If you are terminating whilst you are within your existing minimum term, a cancellation charge will apply. We calculate a cancellation charge by firstly adding together all outstanding monthly (or other periodic) monthly charges (or any other charges stated in the terms and conditions for any service) for the remainder of your minimum term. We then take off 4% of that figure to get the final charge.
It’s worth noting that your handset remains the property of EE if you cancel your contract during the first six months. This can be seen in clause 2 of EE’s network terms and conditions:
You may get Equipment from Us when you take out a Price Plan. Unless We tell you otherwise, You will only own this Equipment at the end of the first six months of the Minimum Term (see point 3.14 and 3.15 of the terms and conditions). You will be required to take all reasonable care with the Equipment and keep it in good condition as if You owned it. (See point 3.13.2).
On giffgaff, there are no early termination fees as you aren’t tied in to any contracts (you can change your goodybag or cancel it at any time).
If you’ve bought a handset from the giffgaff phone store, you can continue paying for this on a separate agreement. It isn’t necessary to continue using giffgaff in order to have this handset repayment plan. The handset repayment plan is provided by RateSetter – you can read our full review of the giffgaff phone store for more information.
If you want to end your contract early at any time after 14 days, you’ll need to pay what is known as a “contract cessation fee”. To find out more please contact us on 7777 from your iD mobile or on 0333 003 7777 from any other phone (charges from landlines or other mobile networks may vary).
If you want to end the Agreement during the Minimum Period or we end this Agreement as a result of your material breach, then you will have to pay a fee of no more than your Monthly Subscription Charges multiplied by the number of months left in your Minimum Period and if you’ve taken Equipment on a Device Plan, you will have to pay for it in full.
Paragraph 8.3 of the Pay Monthly agreement allows them to offer a discount to customers who cancel early. However, the general consensus from comments online is they’ll rarely offer a discount on these charges.
On Three, you’ll pay an early termination fee equivalent to 97% of your remaining monthly payments. For customers who have previously upgraded or renewed a contract on Three, the fee is discounted to 90% of your remaining monthly payments. For more information, see page 15 of Three’s Pay Monthly price guide:
Cancellation fee: Lump sum equivalent to the total of all the monthly charges still remaining during the Minimum Term of your agreement less a discount of: (i) 3% for new connecting customers who are in the first Minimum Term of their agreement with us; or (ii) 10% for existing customers that have upgraded or renewed their existing contract with us for a further, subsequent Minimum Term.
If you’re a Virgin Mobile customer cancelling your contract during the minimum commitment period, you’ll need to pay off the remainder of your contract as an “early disconnection” fee.
You can cancel your contract by calling 789 on your Virgin Mobile handset. Alternatively, you can call 0345 6000 789 from any other phone.
Source: Virgin Mobile Help: How do I disconnect my services?
Tariff Information: Virgin Mobile
If you’re leaving Vodafone within the first 30 days of your contract, you may be able to take advantage of their 30-day network guarantee.
If you were to cancel your contract early after the first 30 days, you would typically need to pay 81.7% of your remaining monthly payments. This is according to reports from the Vodafone community forums:
The Early Termination Fee is the total amount of line rental outstanding for the remainder of the contract, without VAT, and less a 2% rebate. This figure will be calculated on the price prior to any discounts. You can confirm the exact figure by calling 191.
The discount on your early termination fee can vary on a customer-by-customer basis. For this reason, you should contact Vodafone Customer Services on 191 to get an exact figure.
Before cancelling, it’s worth noting that your handset remains the property of Vodafone until you’ve successfully paid the first six bills. This is stated in clause G of Vodafone’s Pay Monthly airtime agreement and charges guide:
G, Mobile equipment ownership.
When you choose a bundle, we may provide you with mobile equipment. You will only own the mobile equipment following the successful payment of your first six bills, unless we tell you otherwise (see clauses 4i and 4j). At all times you must keep your mobile equipment in a good condition (subject to normal fair wear and tear) as if you owned it. Until you own the mobile equipment, we reserve the right to charge you for any mobile equipment which is returned to us damaged.
Alternatives to Cancelling Early
In general, it’s best to avoid cancelling your contract early. This is because of the costly early termination fees. Thankfully, you can normally avoid cancelling your contract by following one of the tips below.
Upgrading Your Handset
If you simply want to upgrade to a newer smartphone, it’s not necessary to cancel your contract. Instead, you can buy your new handset SIM-free and unlocked (e.g. from an electronics retailers like Amazon.co.uk). You can buy one of the latest handsets like a Samsung Galaxy or Moto G off-contract. You’ll then be able to use your existing contract with it: just move your SIM card over and slot it inside the new handset. Depending on your new handset, it might be necessary to change the size of your SIM card.
With SIM-free smartphones, you should expect to pay a little more upfront compared to on 24-month contracts. The flipside, however, is you’ll be able to avoid a hefty early termination fee. There’s also no need to sign a new contract, and you can recycle your old handset to re-coup some of the upfront cost.
At present, our recommended SIM-free smartphone is the Moto G: it’s available for less than £150 SIM-free and unlocked. It has fantastic specifications at a reasonable price point.
Struggling From Poor Coverage
If you’re struggling with poor network coverage, it’s worth talking to your mobile network operator. The reason for this is it could potentially be a temporary problem (e.g. because of an upgrade or maintenance work on your local phone mast). They may also be able to suggest a solution, or they might be able to give you a discount on your bill.
There are a couple of applications and accessories that can help you out if you’re struggling from poor coverage:
- EE: On EE, it might be possible to use their new wi-fi calling service (this will require you to have a compatible handset with the service). An EE signal box may also be available to customers who lack a smartphone with Wi-Fi Calling support.
- O2: On O2, you can download the TU Go application to make and receive phone calls over a wi-fi connection.
- Three: Customers on Three can use the inTouch application to make and receive phone calls on a wi-fi connection. Alternatively, it may also be possible to get a Sure Signal box.
- Vodafone: Vodafone has a wi-fi calling service for compatible smartphones. For anyone using another handset, it may be possible to get a Vodafone Sure Signal.
For more tips and advice, you can see our article on mobile phone coverage in the UK.
Leaving the UK
Unfortunately, very little can be done regarding early termination fees if you’re leaving the UK.
If you’re planning to return to the UK in the future, it might be better simply to leave your account open (so you’ll be able to use it in the future, you’ll keep your UK phone number and you won’t need to find a lump-sum for the early termination fee). Also, as the costs of using your phone in Europe are fairly reasonable, you may be able to continue using your SIM card there (EU roaming charges will also be scrapped from July 2017).
If you’re not planning to return to the UK, you could see if a friend or family member wants to take over your contract (ask your mobile phone network if they’re able to change the account owner to somebody else).
Like a loan from your bank, your mortgage or your credit card, your mobile phone contract is a form of consumer credit. If you think you might have difficulties paying your next bill, you should contact your mobile network as quickly as possible. They should be able to offer you some alternative payment options. You can also consult the Citizens Advice Bureau and StepChange Debt for help.
If you simply cancel your contract without paying the early termination fee, your details are likely to be passed to a Debt Collection Agency. Your credit rating could also be affected by a failure to pay your early termination fees.
Going forward, you may find it useful to get a free Pay As You Go SIM card as this will give you better control over your mobile phone spending.
How To Cancel Your Contract
If you decide to cancel your contract, you’ll need to call the customer services department of your mobile network.
- BT Mobile: Call 150 from your BT handset (or 0800 800 150 from another phone)
- EE: Call 150 from your EE handset (or 07953 966 250 from another phone)
- iD Mobile: Call 7777 from your iD handset (or 0333 003 7777 from another phone)
- O2: Call 202 from your O2 handset (or 0344 809 0202 from another phone)
- Three: Call 333 from your Three handset (or 0333 300 3333 from another phone)
- Virgin Mobile: Call 789 from your Virgin handset (or 0345 6000 789 from another phone)
- Vodafone: Call 191 from your Vodafone handset (or 03333 040 191 from another phone)
If you want to move your phone number to another network, you can also request a PAC Code at the same time.
My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.
Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.