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.
- 1 Overview of Early Exit Fees
- 2 Early Termination Fees: By Network
- 3 Alternatives to Cancelling Early
- 4 How To Cancel Your Contract
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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:
According to the Sky website, there may be a few ways to reduce the fee that is due:
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”.
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:
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 can cancel your contract by calling 789 on your Virgin Mobile handset. Alternatively, you can call 0345 6000 789 from any other phone.
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:
To get the exact figure that relates to your plan, contact Vodafone Customer Services on 191.
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.
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.