Do you ever feel that your relationship has gone stale? No not your actual relationship – it is the season of love, after all! I mean those ongoing relationships we have with businesses that we’re not getting anything out of.

Annoyingly, we can’t break up with some bad relationships (I’m looking at you, water providers and local councils). Other’s we’re stuck with for the time being – like energy firms – until we can ditch them and switch in the coming months. But you can still start a new relationship with others, like your mobile phone provider.

You’ve changed, you’re not the same

A lot has happened over the pandemic. You may find that your mobile phone provider has become harder to contact or you’re not happy with customer service issues. More worryingly most – but not all – mobile phone providers have announced that data roaming charges for using your phone’s data in Europe are coming back. This could have a big impact on you if you’re planning a holiday or two this year. So is it time to switch?

The good news is it’s really easy to switch providers these days if you’re out of contract. But here’s how to leave early if the contract hasn’t elapsed.

The price of leaving early

When you enter in to a contract with a mobile phone or broadband provider, you’ll have to pay a fee for leaving early.

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.

But there are things you can do to beat the fee…

Things have changed – you’re not the same

That contract that you signed binds the firm as much as it binds you. So if the business has changed the way it operates, withdrawn services or introduced significant changes, you can ask to walk away and have the exit fees dropped.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. So explain why you feel that the firm has changed for the worse. Remember you can go to a free ombudsman service if you’re unhappy.

Irreconcilable differences

Sometimes the love slips away and the relationship breaks down between you and your phone company. As with any relationship, it pays to be honest with yourself about where the blame lies. If a business has treated you badly and refuses to listen, spell out why you feel the relationship isn’t working and why you want to walk away. Make sure you list the things they’ve done wrong – and mention the ombudsman.

A business should not take any action against you because you’ve made a complaint, 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 some of 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.

The fact of the matter is, if your service isn’t available in your new home you shouldn’t have to pay an exit fee. Yet some firms are still digging their heels in over this. Don’t take no for an answer. Be polite but firm and ask the business to waive charges if you can’t get the service – and take it further if they don’t listen.

Where service is patchy, it’s a bit more complicated. If you’re mobile phone signal is now poor, then tell the firm, take regular signal tests using one of the many free apps there are out there or screenshots of the bars of signal on your phone. That way you can demonstrate that there’s a problem the firm should let you go without charging you.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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