If you’ve reached the end of your tether with a home broadband provider, or you’re looking to get a better deal, upgrade your speed, or are moving home, you may be considering ending the contract early and finding a new broadband service.
Before you do this though take note of the cost. If you've not yet reached the end of a minimum term contract it will usually involve an early termination fee, and if you’re not far into a lengthy agreement that could be a fairly significant amount
But what’s involved in ending a broadband contract, what could it cost you, and is there a way to cancel early without paying anything for the privilege? This guide will show you how it may be possible to cancel an internet contract for free, and how to go about it.
How can I cancel my broadband for free?
There are times where you can end a broadband deal and face little to no cost, so if your situation falls into any of the scenarios below you might be free to switch without giving your bank balance a walloping.
If you’re out of contract
Pretty simple this - if you’re outside the minimum term of your current broadband service then you’re free to leave whenever you like without penalties. This might seem too obvious to bother mentioning but loads of us let our broadband services run on past the initial term and never question it, so if it’s been a while since you switched you should get in touch with your broadband provider and ask them how many months - if any - are left on your current deal. If you’re out of the contract then you can start the search for a new broadband deal, though it’s worth negotiating with your current provider to see what they can offer too.
There is a caveat to this however: some ISPs 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 find out if your provider has such a policy. 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
Finding out how your contract ends is very easy. You can simply call or email the provider to ask them, or use online live chat if that facility is available. You may also be able to find out using your broadband provider's online account tools - this is often the quickest way as you'll simply need to use your online account login details and won't have to provide any further verification or wait in a queue to speak to someone.
For further help we have guides to finding the contract end date for specific providers:
If you’re in your cooling off period
When you sign up to a new contract there is a 14 day cooling off period during which you may cancel for free. You should notify the provider as soon as possible if you’d like to take advantage of this right, and we would recommend keeping a record of all communications in case of problems.
Keep in mind that the cooling off period is meant to allow for you suddenly changing your mind, not finding out that the service isn't up to scratch, and as such it starts from the time you registered for the new provider not from the date it goes live. Since it usually takes around 14 days to setup a new broadband service this means that you’re probably going to be outside the cooling off period by the time your connection is up and running.
If your broadband is slower than expected
A slow broadband connection may be grounds for cancelling.
One route is the Ofcom broadband speed code of practice. If your ISP has signed up to the Ofcom code of practice for broadband speeds they have agreed to treat complaints about broadband speeds as a technical issue, and to end contracts without a fee if they are unable to remedy the situation.
In order to use this to end a contract early without charge you will need to follow their tech support procedures first so they can attempt to fix it, and the speed must be significantly lower than the rate you were advised when joining - all providers should supply an accurate estimate when you sign up so if you don’t receive this you should query it.
If the provider agrees there is an issue and is unable to fix it, then you can cancel without charge. The provider may offer alternatives such as switching you to a cheaper package, but you are not obligated to accept this.
The code of practice is voluntary. At present the residential broadband providers which have agreed to it are:
- Virgin Media
You’ve got a complaint
Complaints may lead to the provider releasing you from the contract early, but it is at their discretion. You may be particularly upset with the provider and feel that you are justified in cancelling, but you should never end service before the expiry date unless the ISP has agreed to do so without a penalty.
It is not unknown for providers to waive a cancellation fee for customers who are unhappy but this will require a formal complaint. If you simply call customer services, voice your displeasure and then cancel you’re going to be faced with a bill for the remaining months.
If ending the contract early is the goal you can state this when making a complaint, but make sure to follow the correct procedure and don’t assume you’ll get the outcome you were hoping for.
How to complain about broadband
Complaining about a broadband service is straightforward, but it’s not always a quick process and it may not result in the outcome you want (but that shouldn’t stop you from trying).
The first step is always to contact the provider with details of the issue, and what you would like them to do. You can do this over the phone, though in writing may be best as you’ll have a written record of your correspondence.
Once the ISP is aware they may quickly offer you some kind of compensation (such as a bill credit), or perhaps 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 the provider has not contacted you eight weeks since your last communication, 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.
If your broadband provider raises its prices
If a provider raises prices and you have a fixed contract taken out after 23rd January 2014, you have a right to cancel mid-contract. The provider must notify you of the price increase 30 days in advance, giving you 30 days to cancel.
This can be used for any broadband provider and they do not need to have signed up to any voluntary codes.
But there is one big catch: inflation-linked price rises can be written into the terms and conditions, which negates your right to cancel since you already agreed they could raise prices in line with inflation. Your right to cancel remains if the price increase is higher than that stated in the terms and conditions.
If you’re moving home and you can’t get broadband
If you move to a new area and your current provider is unable to supply a connection then you may be able to leave for free. However, each ISP has its own approach to this situation and some will still charge even if they aren’t available in your new home. It also won’t count if they can provide a service but it is much slower than the one you’re currently getting; you’ll either have to accept the slower speeds, or cancel and pay any necessary fees for doing so.
What if I want to cancel for other reasons?
If none of the scenarios above fit your situation it’s not the end of the world. You always have a right to cancel, it’s just that it might mean accepting a fee to do so. If you feel you have a right to leave without penalty then you should contact the provider and explain 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 minimum this is going to be a fee for each remaining month on your contract (partial months will be pro-rata). Each provider has its own rate, sometimes it will be the full monthly charge but more commonly it’s a reduced fee. As an example, the table below shows the cost of ending a TalkTalk broadband contract before the minimum term is up:
|TalkTalk broadband package||Charge per month|
|Fastest Ultra Fibre Optic||£10.50|
But 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, though it may be easier to simply 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 ending the early termination fee may be minimal and justifiable if you have to leave right now, but if you’ve got any significant amount of time remaining the costs can quickly add up and you can easily face a three figure amount in the final bill.
But there are options for reducing an early cancellation charge...
Exit fee bonus from your new provider
But before you jump at this offer, take note of the following:
- You still have to pay the cancellation fee up front. Providers don’t pay off your existing ISP directly, you must still pay any charges and then claim a credit from your new provider. And it’s not necessarily going to arrive as a lump sum, it can instead come in the form of a bill credit spread over 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. Weigh up the value of both and see which is going to 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 in many cases is not going to make up for the exit fee. However BT will compensate you for charges of up to £300.
- You’ll need to remember to send proof. The new provider isn’t going to pony up the cash without proof so you have to remember to send them a copy of your final bill to prove you were charged.
Some providers have referral schemes that give you a reward when a friend signs up. For example, Virgin Media will give £50 to both you and a buddy when they join up. Because of the way referrals work this is not always going to be helpful for offsetting 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 high enough that they could exceed an early cancellation fee, or at least go some way to offsetting it.
To find out what kind of special offers are available right now check out our broadband rewards, which often includes 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 Post Office broadband
- 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