Notifying a phone or broadband provider of a customer's death

Published: 28 November 2022

We know that bereavement can be a difficult and upsetting time. Under Ofcom rules, phone and broadband providers must have policies for treating you fairly and appropriately if you contact them to close or alter a deceased person’s account.

Who to contact

Many larger providers have a specialist team dealing with bereavement. You could search online for the name of the provider plus ‘bereavement’ to find the right details, or ask for this team when calling.

Before getting in touch, try to find:

  • the account holder’s full name;
  • their address and telephone number; and
  • the account number if possible.

This will help the provider find the account.

Our good practice guide to treating vulnerable customers fairly (PDF, 1.3 MB) sets out how providers can make themselves more accessible, for example by offering a range of contact methods. This could include a dedicated email address or online form as well as a phone number, so you don’t have to speak to an advisor if you don’t want to.

You shouldn't have to pay a fee

A provider should close the deceased person’s account on request. You shouldn’t have to pay a penalty fee (also known as an Early Termination Charge or ETC), although business accounts may be treated differently. While we understand that you might not notify the provider of a person’s death straight away, the provider is not required to backdate the closure or refund any money paid, although some may choose to do so. It is possible for a provider to recover any outstanding charges on an account via probate, but providers often also waive these.

The provider should close the account quickly

Providers will have their own timescale for closing an account, but they should do it as quickly as possible. We understand how upsetting it can be to receive marketing material for someone who has died, so when closing a deceased person’s account it is fair to expect providers not to address any further communications to the person who has died.

You might be asked for proof

The provider might ask you for a copy of the death certificate, or its number, to close an account. A photocopy or scan should do.

Tell the provider if you want to keep additional numbers, like those on a family plan

If there was more than one number on the deceased person’s account, speak to the provider and see what they can do. It may be possible to transfer the plan to another name, transfer to pay-as-you-go (if available), or transfer to pay-monthly (they may need to check if you qualify).

What if an account was not in the name of the deceased person, e.g. another family member was paying the bills?

Speak to the provider. They may be willing to close the account without penalty in these circumstances.

You might be asked to return equipment

The provider might ask you to return a mobile handset if it was provided as part of an airtime contract, particularly if it is new and/or valuable. Similarly, you might be asked to return a router when a landline account is closed. The provider may provide you with a prepaid envelope for this purpose.

Refunding credit on a deceased person's account

A deceased person's assets belong to their estate. It may be possible for a refund to be paid into an executor account. An executor account allows executors to gather payments due to a deceased person’s estate before being distributed to the beneficiaries. It is also normally possible to use an executor account to make payments on behalf of the deceased, for example paying the landline bill at a house belonging to the deceased person’s estate. Your bank should be able to provide you with further information on executor accounts.

Keeping the service connected

You might want to keep a phone or broadband connection, or use services such as pay TV, on a temporary basis, for example until the deceased person's home is sold. If so, you will need to make sure that the bills are paid.

If you want to keep services connected longer term, some providers will transfer an account into another name on request. Other providers will close the account and open a new account on request (there may be a minimum contract period for the new account and credit checks may be required). A new account holder will not have access to things like previous itemised bills. It is important to let the provider know if you want to keep the same phone number.

If an account is in joint names, it should be put into the surviving person’s name on request.

An unused mobile number could eventually be recycled

Mobile numbers may be recycled after a while, to ensure that the UK’s finite supply of phone numbers is used efficiently.

Pay-as-you-go accounts normally require a chargeable activity (like a phone call, text message or top-up) at least once over a certain length of time to keep the number in use. If this does not happen, the account could be closed.

Numbers used by pay-monthly customers could also be recycled after an account is closed.

The length of time before a mobile provider deems a phone number inactive varies, but is typically somewhere from three to twelve months. Our guide has more information.

Can I complain about a deceased person's account when I'm not the customer?

Yes, but you could be asked for evidence that you have the authority to do this, e.g. you are the executor of the estate.

You will need to follow the provider’s normal complaints procedure – this should be explained on their website or by their customer service team. If your problem is still unresolved after eight weeks, you can complain to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. You will need to provide proof that you can deal with the estate, either by providing a grant of probate or letters of administration to the provider or ADR scheme.


I lived with my father until his death. I would like to transfer his landline account into my name.

Some providers will transfer an account into another name in these circumstances. Other providers will close the account without penalty on request and open a new account in your name. You may need to supply a copy of his death certificate or its number. Let your landline provider know that you would like to keep the same telephone number.

There is a credit balance on my late sister’s pay-as-you-go mobile account.

A deceased person’s assets belong to their estate rather than to their next of kin, but if there is an executor account, any refund can usually be paid into that.

My partner took out a two-year mobile contract shortly before he died. Do I have to return the mobile handset when I cancel his contract?

Most providers do not ask for handsets to be returned in these circumstances, but if the handset is valuable and was very recently issued, you may be asked to return it.

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