How to break a cell phone contract

There was a time when the basic contract for mobile phones was 12 months long. In those days that seemed long enough to wait for the latest phone. Now 24 months is the standard fixed term contract offered with cell phones. If you’re locked into this type of contract, you’ll need to know how to break a cell phone contract without paying penalty fees.

Recently signed up

If you’ve only just signed up and a better deal arrives (perhaps you’re moving to a new mobile phone network and your current network comes up with an unmissable deal), you might want to break your contract. That’s normally pretty easy to do as most contracts give you a 14 day cooling off period. If you made the agreement online, you used to be protected by the distant seller regulations that allowed customers to return their goods within 7 working days of receipt of the goods. Today the Consumer Contracts Regulations govern these types of agreements.

Consumer Contracts Regulations

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations you get 14 days to cancel a contract. You can expect a full refund from the mobile phone network for any upfront costs, like the cost of the handset. The regulations also call for a refund of the delivery charges, but only the standard delivery charges so if you opt for any special delivery, you’ll only get a partial refund.


If you’re midterm and you want to replace your phone or start a new contract with Vodafone or EE or whoever, you have several options. The first one is pretty basic – talk to your network and ask them for an early upgrade. Doing this won't normally lead to a favourable deal as they hold all the cards in this transaction. If you’re not interested in staying with your current provider, you’ll have to pay their Early Cancellation Fee. You’ll find out the amount charged and the process when you check out the terms and conditions on your contract.

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