Checklist for new phone or broadband contract
If you're thinking of signing up to a new mobile phone, home phone or broadband deal, there are a few things you might want to consider first.
For instance, will the amount you pay each month stay the same over the course of the contract, or do different prices apply at different times?
And if the terms, including the prices, change or increase unexpectedly during your contract, what are your rights?
This guide sets out some factors you might want to consider before signing a new contract and explains what you can do if the price you agreed to increases unexpectedly.
- Some contracts are offered on a rolling basis where you can cancel month to month, whereas others might tie you in for 12, 18 or 24 months. Always check and think about how long you want to be tied in for?
- As a consumer (separate rules apply for businesses) the contract for your telecommunication service should be no longer than 24 months. Some contracts for mobile handsets may be longer so its important to check the terms for the handset as well as the airtime.
- If you are signing up to a 12-, 18- or 24-month contract there will usually be a charge if you leave the contract early. These charges – called ‘early termination charges’ shouldn't be more than the payments left on the contract (and in some cases could be a lot less).
The price that you pay each month is likely to be one of the most important factors in your choice of contract. It may be:
- Fixed - this is a single price which is fixed for the length of the contract term e.g. £20 a month for 24 months.
- Tiered - where you pay different prices at different times, e.g. £10 a month for the first 12 months and £15/month for the second 12 months. Or £10 a month, plus an increase of X% in line with inflation.
- Variable - where your provider reserves the right to increase the monthly price you pay at its discretion.
No matter what type of contract, the amount you will pay each month should be provided clearly to you. If you're unclear as to what you are agreeing to, or are uncomfortable with the type of contract being offered, don't sign up.
If your provider increases your monthly price beyond what you agreed when you signed up, it should:
(a) give you at least one month's notice of the price rise; and
(b) allow you to exit your contract without penalty if you choose to.
Sometimes your provider might make increase to prices for services which are outside of your regular monthly amount (this could include international calls, calls to Directory Enquiries, premium rate numbers or any other services where you're charged on ‘pay-per-use’ basis). If this happens then your provider should still let you know about these changes but they are only required to offer you the right to exit your contract without penalty if the proposed increase would be likely to particularly disadvantage you, for example if you regularly make calls to these numbers.
If it your provider does not give you the right to exit and you think that the price increase(s) will disadvantage you because of your circumstances, you should raise this with your provider and provide evidence to support your claim.
- Exactly what do you get for your money? Does the contract include a usage allowance and what are the charges if you exceed this?
- Are there any extra costs - e.g. for paper bills, for caller ID, for retrieving voicemails, or if you make payment by means other than direct debit?
- What happens if there is a fault or service problem? Are there guaranteed timescales for repair? Is compensation and/or other redress available? Are there any charges for engineer visits? When and how much? See if your provider is signed up to the automatic compensation scheme.
A good way to find out what deals are available is to check the price comparison sites accredited by Ofcom.
We’ve gathered together some useful information on the main questions that you might have to help you choose provider. This includes information on customer complaints to providers and overall satisfaction rates.
As well as telling you the monthly price(s) you are agreeing to pay, providers should also give you:
- a description of the service;
- the key charges;
- payment terms;
- your rights to cancel, and the procedures for cancelling;
- the date the service will be provided (where the service is not being provided immediately); and
- any minimum contract period. This information must be set out clearly to you in writing, such as a letter or email. If you enter into a contract during a sales call, in addition to giving this information over the phone, your provider must send this information to you in good time following the call (for example by letter or email).
When you buy a broadband service, you should receive accurate information on how fast your broadband will be. You should get the estimated speed you are likely to experience at busy times of the day, when average speeds are often lower. These times are 8-10pm for home services, and 12-2pm for business services. Your provider should always provide a minimum guaranteed speed for your broadband service.
If you believe that a provider hasn’t properly notified you of a change to your contract or that you have been mis-sold a contract you should contact its customer services department and make a formal complaint. Always ask for a reference number when you make a complaint.
If you haven't reached a resolution with the provider after eight weeks (or earlier if stalemate ("deadlock") is reached), you may have the right to take your case to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Scheme.
The provider must tell you which scheme it is a member of, or you can use our ADR checker
You can also contact Ofcom . Complaints data helps us to target our enforcement action against companies that may not be compliant with our rules.