Are you desperate to get out of your broadband contract early? If your circumstances have changed, you're moving house, or struggling to pay the bills, being stuck in a contract can be frustrating. Providers work very hard to keep their customers in-contract, and there's almost always a pesky bit of small print that means you'll have to pay a lot to break this agreement early.
However, there are some ways you can leave your broadband provider early, or even for free. Over the course of this page, we're going to check out those circumstances. If any of these apply to you, hopefully you can get in touch with your provider to cut your contract early. You might not even have to pay a penny!
Cancelling broadband: The key points
How can I cancel my broadband for free?
There are times when you can end a broadband deal without having to pay anything. Do any of these circumstances feel familiar? If so, you might be free to switch without penalty.
Cancelling broadband if you’re out of contract
If you’re one of the 35% of broadband customers outside the minimum term of your broadband service, you’re free to leave whenever you like without cost. The only catch is you'll usually have to give your provider 30 days' notice.
Many of us let our broadband package run past the initial term and never question it. So, if it’s been a while since you switched but you're not sure whether your contract has ended, you should get in touch with your broadband provider and ask how many months are left on your current deal. You could also look through your email archives to find your original contract or log in to your account.
If you're out of the contract, you can start searching for a new broadband deal without worrying about the cost of cancelling. But it can also be worth negotiating with your current provider to see if you can get a better deal.
Check the small print
Some providers do charge a disconnection fee regardless of your contract status. This isn’t well advertised, so you’ll need to check with customer services or dig into the terms and conditions to see if this would apply to you. This is also the kind of thing you can find mentioned in our broadband provider reviews.
How to find out when your broadband contract ends
For further help, we have guides to finding the contract end date for specific providers:
- How to find your BT Broadband contract end date
- How to find your EE broadband contract end date
- How to find your Sky broadband contract end date
- How to find your TalkTalk broadband contract end date
- How to find your Virgin Media broadband contract end date
Cancelling your broadband agreement in your cooling-off period
There's a minimum 14-day cooling-off period, which begins the day after you register for the service. During this time, it's your legal right to cancel for free, for any reason. Some providers also offer a longer cooling-off period.
You should notify the provider in writing as soon as possible if things aren't working out for you, you've changed your mind, and you’d like to cancel within this cooling-off period. We recommend keeping a record of all communications in case of any problems.
Just remember that if your broadband service activation happens before this cooling-off period has ended, you’ll be liable for the cost of providing the service during that time.
Cancelling your broadband for free if it's slower than expected
A slow broadband connection is a valid reason for cancelling.
One route is the Ofcom broadband speed code of practice. If your provider has signed up to this, they’ve agreed to deliver a particular download speed and end contracts without a fee if they don't match up to this promise.
To use this to end a contract period early without charge, you’ll need to give tech support a chance to fix the issues first. The speed must also be significantly lower than the rate you were advised when joining. All providers should supply an accurate estimate when you sign up.
If your provider agrees there’s an issue but can't fix it, you can cancel without charge. The provider may offer alternatives, such as switching you to a cheaper package, but you aren’t obligated to accept this.
The code of practice is voluntary. Currently, the home broadband providers that have agreed to it are:
Cancelling broadband if you’ve got a complaint
Complaints may lead to the provider releasing you from the contract early, but it would be at their discretion.
You may be particularly upset with the provider and feel you’re justified in cancelling. But you should never end service before the contract expiry date, unless the provider has agreed to let you go without penalty.
It isn't unknown for providers to waive a cancellation fee for unhappy customers. However, you’ll have to make a formal complaint. If you jump straight into cancelling, you’re going to be faced with a bill for the remaining months. Be aware, you might have to play the long game!
If ending the contract early is the goal, you can state this when making a complaint, but follow the correct procedure and don’t assume this will always end in success.
How to complain about broadband
Complaining about broadband service is straightforward, but it’s not always a quick process. Nor will it always result in the outcome you want. But don’t let that stop you from trying.
The first step is always to contact the provider with details of the issue and what you’d like them to do. You can do this over the phone, though an email may be best as you’ll have a record of what’s said. Live Chat is also an option sometimes too if you're a nervous caller.
Once the provider is aware, they may quickly offer you some kind of compensation. This will probably be something like a bill credit. If they don’t do that, then they’ll simply explain their position. You can accept this or request that your complaint is escalated.
This back and forth can continue until you receive, or request, a “deadlock letter”. This document shows that both sides have been unable to agree on a mutually satisfying outcome.
Once you’ve got a deadlock letter, or if the provider hasn’t contacted you for eight weeks, you have a right to take the complaint to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. All providers will use either CISAS or Ombudsman Service: Communications; check Ofcom’s list of ADR schemes to see which you need.
For a more detailed explanation about complaints, see our dedicated guide to complaining about broadband.
Cancelling broadband if you're bereaved
Many internet service providers have a bereavement policy in place should the account holder die. If you're reporting a death, you'll need to have some basic information to hand, such as the account holder's full name, address, telephone number and (if you can find it) the broadband account number. You might also be asked to provide a photocopy or scan of a death certificate.
We have more detailed information about how to notify a broadband provider of a bereavement in a dedicated guide.
Cancelling broadband if your provider raises its prices
Unfortunately, it's very likely the majority of broadband customers will be hit with a mid-contract price hike in 2023. As long as the internet service provider (ISP) has notified you of this price jump (the standard period is 30 days), you won't be able to cancel for free.
Inflation-linked price rises can be written into the terms and conditions. This wipes your right to cancel, since you already agreed they could raise prices in line with inflation.
If you’re moving home and you can’t get broadband
You may be able to leave for free if you move to a new area and your current provider is unable to supply a connection. For example, you can’t get fibre optic broadband in your new area, but you could where you lived previously.
However, each provider has its own approach to this situation. Some, will still charge.
You'll also still have to pay if they can only provide a slower service. You’ll either have to accept the slower speeds or cancel and pay any necessary fees for doing so.
Here are a couple of guides you may find helpful:
- 'Moving home with BT Broadband'
- 'Moving home with Sky Broadband'
- 'Moving house: how to set up internet in a new home'
What if I want to cancel my broadband for other reasons?
If none of the topics we've covered so far apply to your situation, you're not completely out of options. You always have a right to cancel, but you might have to pay.
If you feel you have a right to leave without penalty, you should contact the provider and, if necessary, pursue it as a complaint.
Will it cost money to cancel my broadband contract early?
Assuming you don’t qualify for one of the situations above, cancelling a broadband contract early will always cost something.
At a minimum, this is going to be a fee for each remaining month of your contract. If you cancel in the middle of a month, then you’ll have to pay each partial month pro rata. Each provider has its own rate, and often this is a reduced fee. However, sometimes this will be the full monthly charge.
As an example, this is how much ending a Shell Energy broadband contract before the minimum term is up costs:
- Shell Energy Fast Broadband: £6.50 per remaining month.
- Shell Energy Super Fast Fibre Broadband: £16.50 per remaining month.
- Shell Energy Ultrafast Fibre Broadband: £18.50 per remaining month.
In addition to a per-month charge, there are often other costs, such as:
- A charge for the Wi-Fi router or other equipment.
- A charge for any discounts you received as part of the deal.
- A standard disconnection fee.
The provider’s terms and conditions should explain everything. But it’s often easier to call customer services and ask them to tell you exactly what it would cost to end your contract now, including any one-off fees.
How to reduce the cost of cancelling broadband early
If you’re within a few months of the contract end date, the early termination fee may be small and acceptable if you have to leave right now. But if you’ve got any significant amount of time remaining, the cost can quickly add up, and you could face a three-figure amount in the final bill.
However, there are some options for reducing an early cancellation charge, for instance:
Exit fee bonus from your new provider
Some providers will give you credit for the cost of cancelling your existing service if you're charged when you switch to them.
But before you jump at this offer, take note of the following:
- You still have to pay the cancellation fee. Providers don’t pay off your existing provider directly. You still need to pay the charges and then claim a credit from your new provider. And they may just take that credit off your bills for a set amount of months.
- You might miss out on special offers. Accepting an exit fee bonus credit might mean you can’t take advantage of free gifts or other offers that come with some of the best broadband deals. You’ll have to weigh up the value of both and see which will be worth the most.
- Not every provider pays the same amount, and it may not cover the total cost. For example, EE offers a credit of £50, which isn’t going to make up for the exit fee in many cases. Sky will credit you up to £100 to cover the bill (this rises to £200 if you're switching to Sky TV & Broadband).
- You’ll need to remember to send proof. The new provider isn’t going to dish out the cash without proof, so you have to remember to send your new provider a copy of your final bill to prove you were charged. Don’t be surprised if it takes a little while.
Some providers have referral schemes that give you a reward when a friend signs up. For example, Virgin Media will give £60 to both you and a friend when they join up. Because of the way referrals work, this isn’t always going to help offset an early termination fee, but it could be handy if you’re in a situation where you can take advantage of it.
Deals, rewards, and free gifts
There are always loads of broadband deals with special offers such as reward vouchers, pre-paid credit cards, and free gifts. The value of these extras can be higher than an early cancellation fee or at least go some way to offset it.
To find out what kind of special offers are available right now, check out our broadband rewards, which often include exclusive deals you'll only find on Broadband Genie.
How to cancel your broadband provider
In addition to all the information on this page, we've also got guides on how exactly to cancel specific providers:
- How to cancel BT
- How to cancel Direct Save Telecom
- How to cancel EE broadband
- How to cancel John Lewis broadband
- How to cancel Onestream
- How to cancel Origin broadband
- How to cancel Plusnet
- How to cancel Shell Energy broadband
- How to cancel Sky
- How to cancel SSE broadband
- How to cancel TalkTalk
- How to cancel Virgin Media
- How to cancel Vodafone broadband
If you’re out of contract, you can cancel your current deal and switch for free. Out-of-contract prices are often high, so you could well save a small fortune. You can find an amazing new deal right here on Broadband Genie. To check out what's available in your area, you can use our deals checker at any time:
Broadband Genie deals checker
There are other circumstances for which you can cancel for free. These usually fall into one of these areas:
- Issues with your current provider, such as poor service and slow speed.
- You’re moving to a place your current provider can’t supply.
- Prices have risen more than inflation requires.
If you really need an out, you can always can and pay the cancellation fees if none of the above applies. Just be aware, this can end up an expensive move. However, these fees can be offset by things such as the new provider ‘paying’ cancellation fees, upfront vouchers/rewards on your new deal or even simply by getting an incredibly cheap new deal. Do your maths, and you may find it still works in your favour!
If you've been reading this guide because you're worried you can't keep up with your broadband payments, help is at hand. We have more tips on how to tackle this in our guide: 'What to do if you can't afford to pay your broadband bill'.
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