Cancelling broadband contracts early

Most broadband contracts run for two years. Some are available for one year, some for three, but mostly, you’ll be asked to sign-up for 24 months. This is simply the provider’s way of giving itself some kind of protection on its expected return on investment. But of course, as part of the terms of that contract, they must provide a service to an agreed level. If they don’t, they break the contract and make it invalid.

If you want to terminate your contract early, you have a valid reason you may be able to do that without any penalty. If not, you’ll need to follow the process set out in the terms and conditions and that might end up costing you something.

Unfortunately, simply finding a better deal is not going to get you off the hook if you decide to leave the original commitment early. If the savings – or performance improvement – makes a significant difference, it might be worth it – but that’s going to be your decision and responsibility. Also, if you are switching it’s worth asking the new provider if they have any kind of incentive to help you. Some do provide such an enticement it may just tale the edge off the cost of changing supplier.

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How do I cancel my broadband early?

This will be set out in your original contract terms. But the approach is fairly uniform across all service providers. You will usually need to give the service provider 14 days notice and agree to pay any outstanding amount or termination fee on or by the agreed termination date. Some providers will allow you to align your leaving date to the date you switch to another provider – usually the month end.

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Will I be charged for leaving my broadband contract early?

If that’s what it says in the contract, yes, you will be charged an early termination fee. Often, it’s the remaining base cost of your contract, but some providers also charge a simple flat fee per month, which may not be as high. Some may also ask you to pay the cost of the broadband hub that they provided with the service. (See below for specific details of the early termination terms of some leading broadband service providers).

The best opportunity you will have to cancel a contract will be when – and if – your provider puts up their prices. If they do this during your contact term, you have 30 days after that to cancel your contract. Most suppliers do reserve the right to put prices up – but the Ofcom rule is that they must give you the opportunity to pull out of your current deal when they do.

It’s perhaps also worth noting that there are broadband deals that guarantee no price increase for the initial contract term. That’s good in the sense that you know your prices won’t rise. The drawback then is that you won’t have a potential exit route, should you find yourself looking for one at any point.

The only other time you can escape without incurring a cost is if you are in the initial 14-day “cooling off” period. If you decide to cancel within this timeframe, it won’t cost you anything. Some providers offer a longer free cancellation period – with TalkTalk, for example, it’s 20 days.

Of course, if you are out of your minimum commitment term – the original period you signed-up for – there will be no issue. You can just leave. Go earlier and it’s likely to be more complicated and cost you something.

If you want the flexibility to chop and change around providers, it’s best to think about that at the outset and only take out a short contract of 12 or 18 months, if those options are available from your provider. There are also a few services that are offered on a monthly rolling contract – these are mainly aimed at students and tend to be available only in certain areas of big university cities.

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Can I leave a broadband contract without paying?

You can avoid paying only if the service provider has not met the terms and conditions of the contract. This will usually mean that they have failed to provide any kind of service at all (but that’s unusual), failed to meet their promises in terms of installation time, or (and this is the most likely reason) the performance and / or reliability of the service has not met the standards set out in the service level agreement.

If there have been faults or you’ve experienced poor speeds, there will be a complaint process you should follow – and you should do that as closely as possible. The provider will always have the opportunity to respond and rectify the problems, but they will need to show that they have made the effort and done enough to try and solve any issues.

Similarly, you will need to demonstrate that you have been reasonable and that there has not been a sufficient improvement. It’s a good idea to document all problems and faults and keep notes of all your interactions (calls, emails, online chats etc) with the provider, so you have an accurate record of how the dispute has unfolded. Complaints and issues can be taken to the Communications Ombudsman or the Communication & Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS).

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How do I get out of a contract with a supplier?

The cost and complexity of getting out of a broadband contract varies. Here we detail the terms that some of the major providers offer.

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BT

BT has a fairly complicated (but fair) early termination calculation. First it adds up what you owe for the remained of your minimum commitment period and takes off VAT charges. It then takes off any costs it saves as a result of you leaving early. It then adds VAT to the final total. BT also gives a 1% discount for early receipt of the final payment. You can get full details here.

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Plusnet

Plusnet has a specific set of charges for early termination – but these may vary depending on when you took out your contract. It makes a simple charge – there is no need to add VAT. For more details, see this page.

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TalkTalk

TalkTalk takes a similar approach to Plusnet with a fixed rate per month charged for early terminations. For full details see here.

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