How to get out of your mobile phone contract

Features Richard Hopping 17:55, 24 Jan 2011

T-Mobile recently announced some pretty draconian cuts to its mobile data tariffs. But how hard is it to actually get out of a contract? We investigate

T-Mobile recently threw a cat amongst the pigeons when it announced some rather controversial changes to its mobile data tariffs, essentially cutting 3GB a month to 500MB in some cases.

In light of mounting pressure, T-Mobile changed its tune only days later and said that the cuts would only be applied to new and upgrading customers – existing ones were safe for now. 

Gadget news website Electric Pig conducted a poll in the wake of T-Mobile’s data-bomb and found that 56.91% of the network’s users wanted to leave T-Mobile when their contract is up. 

But what if it wasn’t just a case of escaping at the end of a contract? What if you wanted to move mid-contract – is it possible?

We spoke to Rob Bamforth, analyst at Quocirca Principal, who told us that it’s “always tricky to peak contracts, especially when put together by large enterprises with large legal departments”.

Why?

First of all, the reason why you want to leave must be clear. If you have a suitable reason then you can work out if there is a way to get out. However, this doesn’t change the fact that you’ve entered a legally binding agreement with the network for the stated period outlined in the contract.

So, of course, getting out will not be easy - especially if you don’t have that valid reason. Just wanting the latest handset, for example, will not suffice.

That said, if your network isn’t providing what it promised in your contract – like cutting your agreed data plan in half, for example – then you do have a valid reason to make like a tree and leave.

Unfortunately, these network-issued contracts can be pretty complicated – and rather wordy too.

“The contracts are pretty complex, but few people take enough time to read them - they should,” said Bamforth.

Let’s use T-Mobile as an example.  If you had managed to get in touch with T-Mobile in between the period of them announcing the changes and backtracking, you may have been able to negotiate your exit. 

After all, less than 30 days were provided which is set out in section 2.11 of the T-Mobile terms and conditions. 

Further to this, 2.11.2 reads the following:

“If You are a Consumer and the change is of material detriment to You, We will send You Written Notice 30 days before the terms and conditions are due to change. The

new terms and conditions will apply to You once that notice has run out, unless You terminate Your Agreement with Us within that notice period. If You do this You won’t have to pay any Cancellation Charge that would otherwise apply, see point 7.2.3.2.”

So, if you can successfully argue that changes T-Mobile has made are to the “material detriment” of you, then you have a right to cancel. 

For example, if you would have to pay more to receive the same service as before, or if your service is reduced, then you can argue this is material detriment. 

In the case of T-Mobile, many people signed up to a contract directly because of the 3GB allowed for data usage. 

T-Mobile rightly realised that what it had done with its policy change was enough of a reason for people to leave penalty-free and so changed the policy again to close this loophole. 

It may have taken some time, but going back to the poll on Electric Pig, 30.89% of respondents said that they had already left T-Mobile. Clearly, in a case such as this, it is possible to peak your contract, but speed may be of the essence.

Aside from this, there are other reasons as to why you may want to leave a phone contract.

Renegotiating

Sometimes you may want to leave a contract because you either can’t afford it anymore, or you are unhappy with the service.  Your best trick here is negotiation. 

It is unlikely you will be able to leave the contract, but if affordability is the biggest issue then you may have more chance of getting what you need by being a current customer. 

Research what else is available on other networks and use that as your leverage to negotiate with your current network provider. Read Money Saving Expert’s tips to try and negotiate your contract. 

“Many operators respond positively when customers say they are thinking of leaving,” said Bamforth – so use that to your advantage. 

Your current network desperately wants to keep you, especially if you are a valued customer, or have been a customer for a long time. 

If you feel that you have been wronged severely in terms of customer service, then now might be the time to try and negotiate for that new handset you have been looking at enviously, or a cheaper deal.  If you don’t ask, you don’t get – but remember that unrealistic demands are likely to stay unrealistic.

 

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