How to get out of your mobile phone contract

Are you stuck in a two-year mobile phone contract and desperately want to break it?

Buying a mobile phone on a contract is the most popular option when it comes to getting a new phone in Australia. By signing a 24-month contract, you usually pay nothing up front and receive a brand new mobile. It sounds great, but what if you're stuck in the middle of a contract and you want a new phone?

Looking for a new smartphone this year? Check out our guide to the best upcoming smartphones in 2011.

Before signing any mobile phone contract, you should note that a contract is a legal agreement, so it is wise to check the full terms and conditions of the paper you are signing. You need to understand both your rights and obligations before agreeing to a contract. Even with this in mind, is it possible to break a mobile phone contract?

Option one: I want a new phone but I'm still under contract

If you don't have any issues with your service, then there aren't many options aside from paying the contract cancellation fee. However, it is definitely worth a try to call your provider and let them know you want to upgrade your phone. If you are at least 12 months into your contract, you may be able to upgrade by signing a new contract and therefore getting a new phone without any cost. If you are less than 12 months into your contract, then you will usually be charged a fee on top of your existing plan per month for any upgrade. If you just want to flat out cancel your contract, then you are liable for any cancellation fees you agreed to when you signed the contract; these fees are usually expensive.

Another option is to sell your phone on eBay and with that money (and perhaps a little more) just buy your preferred phone outright. Most mobile phone shops sell phones outright, while there a number of online stores that import the latest mobile phones before they are even released in Australia. A great example is online store MobiCity, which sells all phones unlocked with a 12-month warranty and repair service.

Option two: I want to cancel my contract and change providers because of poor service

Recently, both Optus and Vodafone customers have been dogged by reception issues, including dropped calls, poor service coverage and slow mobile Internet speeds. If you've signed a 24-month mobile phone contract but are suffering poor quality coverage at home or work, you may be in an area known as a "black spot". Technically, reception issues aren't always valid grounds for breaking a contract, but it is definitely worth discussing any issues you're having with your provider.

It pays to be persistent and firm, but at the same time you need to ensure you remain calm and courteous. Shouting and insulting customer service representatives will most likely not get you anywhere. Another option is to try to bargain with your new telco to cover the cost of breaking your contract; often a new telco may be generous if you are promising to switch your business.

If you try these methods and they are unsuccessful, you should then contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). The TIO is a free and independent service for residential and small business customers in Australia that can help you resolve complaints about phone problems. Remember that you first must attempt to resolve any issues with your service provider before making a complaint with the TIO.

Have you gotten out of your mobile phone contract by using any of these methods? If so, let us know in the comments below!

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
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