You’ll normally need to pay an “early termination charge” or “early exit fee” when cancelling your mobile phone contract in the UK.

In the UK, Pay Monthly mobile contracts often have a minimum commitment of 12 or 24 months. During this time, you’ll be tied in to a contract with your mobile network and you’ll need to pay an “early termination charge” or “early exit fee” for ending your contract early. Typically, the early exit fee is equivalent to paying off the remainder of your contract, although you’ll sometimes be able to get a small discount on it or on elements of it like VAT.

Even if you’re out of contract and moving to another mobile network, you’ll sometimes be charged up to one month of additional line rental. This is because many mobile networks require you to give 30 days notice and will continue charging you for a period of 30 days after you decide to leave for another network.

In this article, we’ll look at the costs of leaving your mobile network and how much you can expect to pay for cancelling your contract early. We’ll discuss the fees and discounts available on each network before looking at some alternative solutions that may work to be cheaper.

Overview of Early Exit Fees

If you’ve purchased your mobile phone on contract from a mobile network in the UK, it’s likely you’ll have signed up for a 24-month contract. If you’ve purchased a Pay Monthly SIM card, you’ll often have signed up for a 12-month contract. If you decide to leave your mobile network during this 12 month or 24 month contract period, you’ll normally need to pay an early termination fee.

Even if you’re out of contract, you’ll sometimes be subject to paying a contract termination fee to cover the 30-day notice period after you request a PAC Code. This may lead to a situation where you’re paying for two contracts at the same time – a situation that has been criticised by regulators like Ofcom but that still occurs at the time of writing.

In this article, we’ll discuss the early termination fees you can expect to pay on major mobile networks in the UK. We’ll also discuss a number of ways to potentially side-step these charges: for instance, by upgrading your handset outside of your contract or finding alternative ways to improve coverage on your phone.

Early Termination Fees: By Network

The exact fee you’ll pay for ending your contract early will depend on the amount of time remaining on your contract. It will also vary on a network-by-network basis, depending on the discounts they’re able to offer.

BT Mobile

On BT Mobile, you’ll pay an early termination fee if you’re ending your contract early during the minimum term. This is described in clause 18 of the BT Mobile terms and conditions.

If you’re on a BT Mobile SIM Only plan, the early termination fee will be calculated as follows based on your 12-month contract:

SIM Only Plan Early Termination Fee
BT Mobile 500MB Plan £6.25 per remaining month
BT Mobile 1GB Plan £8.00 per remaining month
BT Mobile 3GB Plan £8.75 per remaining month
BT Mobile 6GB Plan £13.00 per remaining month
BT Mobile 15GB Plan £16.25 per remaining month
BT Mobile 25GB Plan £22.00 per remaining month
BT Mobile 40GB Plan £28.50 per remaining month

The early termination fee depends on how much time you have remaining on your 12-month contract period. For instance, if you had 1.5 months remaining on the BT Mobile 1GB plan, you’ll pay an early termination fee of 1.5 months x £8.00 per month = £12.00 early termination fee.

If you’re on a BT Mobile Pay Monthly handset plan, the early termination fee will depend on the handset you purchased. Please see the BT Mobile price guide for more information on how to calculate this fee. If you cancel your 24-month contract during the initial 6 month period, you may also need to return your handset to BT.

Source: BT Mobile Terms & Conditions (February 2018)
Tariff Information: BT Mobile Website

EE

On EE, you’ll need to pay an early termination charge (ETC) if ending your contract during the minimum term. This is equal to 96% of the remaining monthly charges for your minimum term, with VAT deducted.

The following example calculation is given on the EE website:

You have a monthly recurring plan for £30 a month, with three months left. We multiply £30 by three, totalling £90, and take VAT off that figure, leaving it at £75. Finally, we take 4 per cent off that figure, making your final Early Termination Charge (ETC) £72

If you’re cancelling outside the minimum term of your contract, a 30 day notice period will still apply. You’ll be charged the full monthly amount up until the end of the 30 day period (EE calls this a “Notice Period Charge”).

You can cancel your EE contract by calling 150 or submitting your request online.

Source: EE Help: How do I cancel my Pay Monthly plan?
Tariff Information: EE Website

giffgaff

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). Any credit you’ve added to your account is non-refundable so you should use it up before leaving for another network.

If you’ve bought a handset from the giffgaff phone store, you can continue paying for this on a separate agreement even if you don’t continue using your giffgaff SIM card. The handset repayment plan is provided by RateSetter as opposed to giffgaff – you can read our full review of the giffgaff phone store for more information.

Source: giffgaff Website: Peer-to-peer lending
Tariff Information: giffgaff Website

iD Mobile

On iD Mobile, there’s a 14-day return period for in-store purchases (at the Carphone Warehouse) and a 30-day return period for online purchases. If you’d like to cancel your plan outside of this period, an “early cancellation fee” may apply. This can be obtained in your iD Mobile account area:

If you decide to leave before your minimum contract period, you may be charged an early cancellation fee. You can view your early cancellation fee in the iD Mobile app or My Account area – under ‘My account’, on the ‘Manage my plan’ tile click ‘End my plan’. You’ll then see your ‘Estimated cost of a cancellation’.

Source: iD Mobile Returns & Cancellations
Tariff Information: iD Mobile Website

O2

If you’re a customer on an O2 Refresh plan, you can leave by paying off the remaining balance on your Device Plan and by giving 30 days notice and paying for this on your Airtime Plan.

If you’re on a standard 24-month contract (which will be the case if you joined O2 through a third-party retailer), you’ll need to pay an early termination fee which is based on the remaining amount of payments for the minimum term of your plan. You should check with O2 Customer Services on 202 to find out how much this will be.

Source: O2 Help & Support: Leaving O2
Tariff Information: O2 Website

Plusnet Mobile

Plusnet provides SIM-only plans on a 30-day rolling basis. You can cancel your contract at any time by giving 30 days notice. You’ll need to pay the full monthly fee for this 30-day period.

Source: Plusnet Mobile cancellation policy
Tariff Information: Plusnet Mobile website

Sky Mobile

On Sky Mobile, you’ll need to pay an early termination charge if you cancel your mobile contract before the end of the minimum term. This is calculated based on the number of remaining months left in the minimum term of your contract.

At the time of writing, the early termination fees on Sky Mobile are as follows:

Plan Early Termination Fee
500MB @ £5 per month £2.41 per remaining month
500MB @ £6 per month £3.28 per remaining month
1GB £6.58 per remaining month
2GB £8.23 per remaining month
3GB £10.71 per remaining month
5GB @ £15 per month £10.71 per remaining month
5GB @ £20 per month £14.85 per remaining month
10GB £14.85 per remaining month
Unlimited Calls and Text Saver £8.26 per remaining month
International Calls and Text Saver £2.50 per remaining month

According to the Sky website, there may be a few ways to reduce the fee that is due:

If you’re a Sky Mobile customer you may be able to reduce the amount of your early termination charge by changing your plan and removing any optional extras before you cancel. If you have a credit agreement for your phone and don’t have any more active SIMs, we may ask you to repay any credit outstanding when you cancel.

Source: Sky: Charges for ending your Sky contract early (6th July 2018)
Tariff Information: Sky Mobile website

Tesco Mobile

If you’re cancelling your contract early on Tesco Mobile, you’ll need to pay an Early Termination Charge.

According to the Tesco Mobile terms and conditions, this “will never be more than your monthly subscription price multiplied by the number of months remaining on your contract”.

Source: Tesco Mobile Pay Monthly terms and conditions (20th March 2018)
Tariff Information: Tesco Mobile website

Three

On Three, you’ll pay a early termination fee equal to the remaining monthly charges for the minimum term of your contract, less a variable discount which is currently 20%. This is detailed on page 24 of Three’s Pay Monthly price guide:

Cancellation Fee
Lump sum equivalent to the total of the Monthly Charges remaining during the Minimum Term of your agreement less a variable discount, currently 20%. We reserve the right to vary the amount of the percentage discount from time to time.

Source: Three Pay Monthly Price Guide
Tariff Information: Three Website

Virgin Mobile

On Virgin Mobile, you’ll need to pay an Early Disconnection Fee if you leave during the minimum term of your contract. This is calculated with a 30-day notice period for which you’ll need to pay the full monthly fee. After this, you’ll be charged approximately 46% of the remaining monthly payments on your plan:

You will still have to pay your full monthly charge during your 30 day notice period as we will continue to provide you with the service for the period of your notice.

If your contract means you’re charged an Early Disconnection Fee, how much you’ll be charged depends on what services you have, and how much of your minimum period remains for your service. We will provide you with your exact Early Disconnection Fee that would be charged if you contact us to cancel your contract. However, we can provide some guidance to give you an idea of the amount that would be charged:

An Early Disconnection Fee will be approximately 46% of your monthly plan cost multiplied by the number of months you have left on your contract, after your 30 day notice period. This is calculated as follows:

Early Disconnection Fee = (Monthly Charge – Monthly Discount) * Remaining Months * 46%

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 Early Disconnection Fees
Tariff Information: Virgin Mobile

Vodafone

If you’re leaving Vodafone in the first 30 days of your contract, you can take advantage of the 30-day network guarantee to exit your contract for free.

If more than 30 days have passed since the start of your contract, you’ll need to pay an “early termination fee” for ending your contract early. This fee is 98% of the remaining payments on the minimum term of your contract, with VAT subtracted (so 81.7% of your remaining monthly payments). The formula for calculating the early termination fee is detailed in the Vodafone terms and conditions:

Early termination fee
If you cancel a contract for your plan before your agreement ends, you’ll need to pay an early termination fee. The fee is based on your monthly plan charge and the remaining time left on your contact, and can be calculated as follows:
Monthly line rental charge (exc. VAT) X remaining contract (months) X 98%

To get the exact figure that relates to your plan, contact Vodafone Customer Services on 191.

Source: Vodafone Support: How do I cancel my contract?
Tariff Information: Vodafone Website

Alternatives to Cancelling Early

When possible, we’d strongly recommend against cancelling your mobile contract early. This is because of the incredibly expensive early exit fees. Thankfully, you can often side-step these early termination charges, perhaps by changing your handset outside of your contract.

Changing Your Handset

If you simply want to change your handset, you can do this outside of your 24-month contract. This is a good option if you need to replace your phone for some reason (e.g. if you’ve lost it, if your old one has stopped working or if you’d simply like an early upgrade).

To upgrade your handset outside of your existing contract, look for a SIM-free or unlocked handset. These are available from a range of retailers including Amazon, Argos, the Carphone Warehouse and John Lewis. You can simply place your existing SIM card into one of these unlocked handsets to continue using your contract without early termination fees.

When buying a SIM-free smartphone, you should expect to pay a little more upfront (typically around £150 for a decent mid-range handset like the Moto G, and around £600 for a flagship device like the iPhone 8). Although this is a large upfront expense, it saves you from paying an early exit fee and doesn’t require you to sign a new contract. To recoup the costs, you can also recycle your old handset and you can switch to a SIM-only deal as soon as your contract comes to an end.

Struggling With Poor Coverage

If you’re struggling with poor coverage at home or at work, it’s always worth talking to your mobile network. It might be a temporary issue due to local mast maintenance, or there might be work scheduled for the future to improve coverage in your area.

Often times, your mobile network can also sometimes provide solutions to improve coverage. For instance, it might be possible to enable a wi-fi calling service for your mobile phone. Alternatively, they may offer you apps and accessories to improve the coverage in your home without you needing to switch to another network.

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 sometime in the future, it might be best to keep your account open. It means you’ll preserve your UK phone number, and you won’t need to find a lump sum to pay the early termination fee. You’ll also be able to use your phone across Europe (often for free, or with a minimal charge if you exceed fair usage allowances).

If you’re not planning to return to the UK in the future, you can ask to see if a friend or family member wants to take over your contract.

Financial Difficulties

Mobile phone contracts are a form of consumer credit, just like a loan from your bank or credit card company. If you think you might have difficulties paying your next bill, there is lots of support available from different organisations. In the first instance, contact your mobile network as quickly as you can – they should be able to offer you some alternative payment options. You can also consult Citizens Advice Bureau and StepChange Debt for advice.

If you were to simply cancel your contract without paying an early termination fee, your details will normally be passed to a Debt Collection Agency. This will affect your credit rating, and the debt will likely be pursued by other means.

Going forward, you may find it helpful to get a free Pay As You Go SIM card as this will give you much better control over your mobile phone spending. There will also be no contracts and no early termination fees, meaning you’ll have a lot more flexibility in the future.

Notice Period Charges

On most Pay Monthly mobile contracts, there is also a 30-day notice period, which applies from the date you ask to cancel your contract. This applies even when you’re outside the minimum term of your contract.

If you change from one mobile network to another, requesting a PAC Code normally serves as notice to end your contract.

You’ll pay the full regular monthly fee for the 30-day notice period after asking to cancel your contract. This may lead to a period of “overlapping contracts”, where you’re paying both your old provider and your new provider at the same time. Regulators like Ofcom have complained about this practice, but unfortunately, it’s still fairly commonplace at the time of writing. For the time being, the best way to minimise overlapping periods is to request your PAC Code earlier or to delay your switch by up to 30 days.

How To Cancel Your Contract

If you’d like to cancel your contract, you should 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)
  • Plusnet Mobile: Call 500 from your Plusnet handset (or 0800 079 1133 from another phone)
  • Sky Mobile: Call 03300 412 524 from your Sky handset or any other 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’d like to move your phone number to another network at the same time, make sure to request a PAC Code whilst you’re on the phone.

Your Comments 225 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 225 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • great article which helped me fight vodafone for a ridiculously high early termination fee. this article appears high in google so I would urge anyone with a high early repayment charge to query it.

    it took me years to get the fee recalculated and only ended when I wrote to their CEO.

    i reckon 20 people at vodafone told me the ETF was correct, but it couldn’t possibly have been correct, it was more than the value of the entire contract!

    If anyone needs advice then feel free to email me – iamprobably at live.com –

  • Hi Ken,

    My agreement end date with Vodafone is on 7th May. I got the PAC code from them today and my new O2 phone will arrive tomorrow. I wondered if you could help with clarity on early exit fees from Vodafone, do they apply with only days left on the agreement, or am I better off waiting to use the PAC code after the 7th May?
    I found this on their website: How much is an early exit fee?
    Your early exit fee is calculated by multiplying the number of months left on your contract by your monthly plan charge (excluding VAT). If your monthly charge is subject to a discount, we’ll use the discounted charge as the basis for the calculation.

    As I don’t have a full month left on my contract, I wonder if it would just be any outstanding charges on my account to pay?

    It just seems such a grey area. Is there an ideal time to use the PAC code where you can seamlessly transition to your new network? I know I could speak with Vodafone for more clarity but there is a reason I’m leaving them and I really don’t want to speak with them any more than I have to!

    Thanks.

    • Hi Gaby,
      Many thanks for your comment. I can’t speak specifically for Vodafone, but in most cases the termination fee is calculated based on the number of days remaining on your contract, or the number of days remaining in your 30-day notice period (whichever is longer). For instance, even if you were out of a contract today, you would need to give 30 days notice to end your contract. Your mobile network could then charge you up to the end of that period. Requesting a PAC Code counts as notice for wanting to end your contract.
      With regards to the 30 day notice period when you’re out of contract, this is something I strongly disagree with (and receive a lot of complaints from other readers about). Luckily, it’s something that Ofcom are legislating to change in the near future.
      Anyway, to circle back around on your original question: the most cost-effective way of doing this would have been to request your PAC Code from Vodafone around 30 days before the end of your old contract (therefore giving notice to Vodafone in the process of doing this). You can then use the PAC Code to move to O2 just before the end of your contract. This would minimise the amount of time remaining on your 30-day notice period, as well as the overlap between the two contracts.
      I appreciate this probably isn’t very much help now, but I hope it will be useful for future reference!
      Ken

  • Hi there, what is the basis for charging mobile monthly plans in advance? I have just taken out a Vodfone contract and did not realise the first and second month fees plus upfront costs would ALL be charged in the same month because the provider says all fees are in advance. I am baffled by this as it makes no sense – why am I paying for a service I have not utilised? Apparently it is the norm with mobile providers. Why are our options as consumers?

    • Hi Mandy,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re right: lots of the major mobile networks have moved towards doing this. It’s obviously in their interests as they get paid one month earlier, and it means they don’t need to chase up payments for charges that have already been incurred (your usage is paid for in advance so they can simply disconnect your line if a payment fails for some reason). On the flip side, it does make the credit check process a bit more relaxed, especially on SIM Only offerings.
      I’m not sure there’s really very much we can do about this as consumers, except from trying to find a mobile network that doesn’t do this!
      Ken

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