James Walker: Breaking up isn’t so very hard to do with phones

Have you ever considered ditching your current relationship and starting over? I thoroughly recommend it.

A fine romance  with no signal
A fine romance  with no signal

No, not that relationship! New rules kick in this month to help you reduce your mobile phone bills. Industry regulator Ofcom has been busy over the past year introducing changes like text alerts when your contract ends and simpler ways to switch provider. So there’s never been a better time to end your current relationship.

How to switch

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In the old days, you’d have to contact your phone company and ask for a PAC (porting authorisation code) then jump through complicated hoops to switch providers. Now you just need to send a text.

If you want to switch to another company and keep your phone number text PAC to 65075. Your current service provider must respond asap (a minute usually). Check on Resolver’s site to find out more about how to do this and keep your number.

The new rules ban some fees associated with switching but the hefty charges for getting out of your contract early still abound. Of course, if you feel you’ve been misled by the firm or they’ve failed to switch you in time, you can make a complaint.

How to leave earlier than planned

When you enter into a contract with a mobile phone or broadband provider but you want to leave the contract early, you’ll have to pay a fee for doing so. These ‘early termination’ or ‘exit’ fees are standard across all contracts – sometimes even pay as you go.

Early termination fees are calculated by working out how long you have left on your contact then billing a fee for the remaining months. With most providers, you’ll need to pay a monthly charge too, though this will depend on the tariff you’re on and will vary quite a bit.

Here’s a list of the main reasons to leave – and how to take advantage

Things have changed – you’re not the same

If the business has changed the way it operates, withdrawn services or introduced significant changes, you can ask to walk away and have the exit fees dropped. You’ll need to prove that the relationship isn’t working though. Remember you can go to the free ombudsman service if you’re unhappy.

Irreconcilable differences

If a business has treated you badly and refuses to listen, spell out why you want to walk away. Make sure you list the things they’ve done wrong – and mention the ombudsman.

But bear in mind if you owe them money for a handset, you’ll need to pay that off. A complaint doesn’t wipe out your obligations.

The distance is too much

If you’ve moved to another part of the country, you might not have the signal you need from your phone provider.

If your service isn’t available in your new home you shouldn’t have to pay an exit fee.

Where service is patchy, it’s a bit more complicated. Take regular broadband and signal speed tests using one of the many free apps there are out there or screenshots of the bars of signal on your phone and if you can demonstrate that there’s a problem the firm should let you go without charging you.