Citizen’s Advice – Coping with Mobile Phone Contracts

mobile-phoneQ. I bought a new mobile phone six months ago. Before doing so I consulted the online signal checker, but I never have any signal at home or at work. I want to cancel my contract and go back to my old mobile phone company as I always had good service from them, but my new provider says I’ll have to pay all 18 months of the contract remaining even if I want to cancel. I can’t afford to pay that all at once as well as pay for a new contract, but I also can’t have a mobile phone that never works when I need it. What can I do?

A. Most mobile phone contracts last 24 months, but often they don’t specify minimum standards of service, so it can be tricky to get out of them without having to pay for the unexpired part of the contract. Your best bet is to keep a log of times when your phone doesn’t work, then contact your service provider and ask them if there is anything they can do about it. This might resolve the problem without any need for cancelling.

Your contract might say something about how much reception you should get: if so, you should be able to cancel the contract without paying. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on what online coverage checkers will say as they are just a guide and will only ever give an idea of the average signal someone can expect outside in that area.

If the mobile phone doesn’t work in your house or work place but does work outside, there might be a problem with those buildings themselves. In that case you wouldn’t normally be able to cancel the contract without any kind of penalty. It might be that the signal just isn’t strong enough, so you should ask your provider to carry out a signal strength check.

If there is no signal anywhere in your area, you might be able to cancel your contract under the Supply of Goods and Services Act. If there is very poor service most of the time, this might mean that the network is breaking your contract. Some contracts set terms and conditions allowing them to not provide a service sometimes, so you need to get advice to see if this applies to you.

Before anything else, contact your service provider, share any evidence of poor service and explain why you should be let out of your contract early. They might well allow you to cancel without any financial loss.

If you need more advice, visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or phone 03444 111444. Otherwise, drop in to your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.

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