How to cancel a UK mobile phone contract and switch providers

Here’s how to get a better deal for your mobile.

Are you wasting money?

Many of us have experienced the cost of not getting the right mobile phone contract and receiving a shock bill for all those extra calls and data.

There’s also a cost in getting expensive contracts we don’t need: the average UK mobile phone customer is paying for 3.4GB of data every month that they don’t need, according to comparison site uSwitch.

Some mobile phone providers do allow you to rollover the data you don’t use at the end of month, such as iD mobile and EE, for example.

Estimating how much data you use is difficult; you can check your monthly bill, but use of data varies, depending on whether we’re going on holiday, for example.

A new smartphone app, Yboo, promises to make that easier, by analysing how you use your phone, and which mobile operators offer the best coverage in your area, before recommending alternative SIM-only contracts.

You install the app and wait for 24 hours then the app will find more suitable contracts, like a comparison site, plus you can switch within the app.

Yboo claims to have deals from UK mobile providers but excludes some with ‘out of bundle’ charges or ‘buy back’ credits.

If your phone contract includes the phone itself, then you’ll need to wait until the end of the contract and get your phone ‘unlocked’ (see below) before you can get access the SIM-only contracts on Yboo.

If you’re not nearing the end of your contract – or don’t want to use the app – we’ve some other tips on switching.

Check your contract status

The first thing to do is to confirm you’re definitely able to switch without incurring any financial penalty.

Here are the contact numbers for some of the major providers:

Three: 0333 338 1001

O2: 0344 809 0202

EE: 0800 956 6000

Vodafone: 0333 304 0191

ID Mobile: 0333 003 7777

Pay-monthly contracts typically last between 12 and 24 months, while SIM-only deals usually last 30 days or 12 months. If you are on pay-as-you-go (PAYG) you won’t be locked into a contract.

Also, take a look at your current TV and mobile supplier: Sky, for example, has mobile phone deals reserved for existing TV customers.

Is your handset “locked”

If you have a mobile phone that you took out as part of a contract, check if you can use it with another mobile phone provider.

You will be entitled to keep a handset after your minimum term ends or when you pay to cancel the contract, though there could be a minimum term stipulaated in the contract.

For example, EE states in its terms and conditions that the handset remains EE property until after six months into your contract.

You should check if the handset is ‘locked’ to your network.

Providers will have different policies about unlocking phones, which allows you to use them with any network.

Some do it for free, while others will only do it after a certain period and charge a fee.

EE for example charges £8.99 to unlock a phone for those cancelling their contract early but won’t charge customers who have are no longer bound by their contract.

Unlocking a phone can take 10-28 days, so make sure you factor this in when switching to avoid losing service.

How to find the best deal

Once you’ve figured out where you stand on your current deal it’s time to think about the network and tariff you want to move to next.

To make sure you pick the right plan for you, work out how many texts and minutes you will likely need. You might want to look at old bills to see what your usage is like. If you don’t have any to hand, some smartphones will also allow you to check your monthly minutes, texts and estimated data usage.

Next, you should work out what sort of deal could work for you: PAYG, pay monthly or SIM-only. Here’s a quick refresher on what they offer and who they are good for:

Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG)

With a PAYG deal you don’t get a phone, inclusive calls/texts/data, there’s no credit check, contract or monthly bills. You just top up your account manually and pay for calls/texts/data at your network’s rates.

This type of deal is good if you have a phone that you don’t use that often or only really need it for emergencies, your credit history isn’t great and you don’t want to commit to a long contract.

Pay-monthly contracts

With a pay-monthly contract, you usually get a handset and an allowance of inclusive calls, texts and data for a monthly fee. Contracts can last between 12-24 months and require that you undergo a credit check before taking one out.

This type of deal is best if you are likely to make a lot of calls, send lots of texts or use a lot of data on the go. It’s also good if you want the latest top of the range handset but can’t afford to pay for it outright.

SIM-only

SIM-only deals can offer a happy medium between contracts and PAYG.

They don’t come with a handset but you get inclusive calls, texts and data for a monthly fee.

A SIM-only deal makes sense if you make a lot of calls or text and use data, might not have the best credit history (30-day rolling contracts don’t normally require a credit check), don’t want to be locked into a long contract and have a handset you can use.

You can compare PAYG, pay-monthly and SIM-only tariffs by using the following comparison websites

Uswitch

Compare The Market

MoneySupermarket

GoCompare

 

Once you’ve found a new network and deal that suits you and are ready to move, you can initiate a switch.

How to start your switch

If you don’t want to keep your number, you just need to contact your new provider to apply for a new service and contact your current provider to end your existing contract.

If you’re still in a contract you need to contact your current provider to give 30 days’ notice that you want to leave and pay an early exit fee.

How to keep your number when you switch

To keep your existing mobile number when switching networks, you need to ask your current provider for your Porting Authorisation Code or PAC.

Your existing provider should give this immediately to you over the phone or within two hours by text.

Your PAC is normally made up of nine digits and is valid for 30 days. If not used within this time it will expire and you will need to request a new one.

Once you have provided your PAC to your new provider, they will contact your old provider to port your number. This should take one working day.

How long will it take and will I lose service?

It’s a good idea to time the end date of your old contract with the start date of your new one to prevent overlap.

You shouldn’t lose service while your number is switching networks. Your number will stay active on your old SIM up until it becomes active on your new SIM.

When the number switch is completed you just need to swap your old SIM for your new one with your new network.

Check the SIM you have works in your new phone and that the number has been transferred across.

Your rights if you’re not happy

You have 14 calendar days from the date you enter a new contract with a new provider to cancel your request to switch without being charged.

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