Cancelling your T-Mobile contract: what the Office of Fair Trading has to say

15 September 2009

[UPDATE 16/9 - we've now published a full guide to help you cancel your T-Mobile contract. You'll find it here.] We've had a veritable stack of emails and comments from readers asking when we'll have more information concerning T-Mobile's plans to increase international roaming charges. The changes, which will see the cost of some calls rise by 140%, are set to be introduced on October 26th. Last week customers began receiving texts alerting them to the new charges.

We initially picked through T-Mobile's Terms of Service and came to the inescapable conclusion that current customers were well within their rights to cancel their contract without penalty. T-Mobile don't see it that way and are insisting that international roaming is an additional service, meaning they are free to dictate whatever charges they see fit without argument. Worse still, unlike our recent dealings with Orange where terrible internal communication meant the provider failed to show any consistency in behaviour, T-Mobile are very well organised and, seemingly without exception, are denying all requests to cancellation without penalty.

This is a pretty complex issue so we're taking our time reading up on the relevant consumer law. This includes the The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (UTCCR), as well as guidance on unfair charges from the Office of Fair Trading and Ofcom. Some of the most interesting stuff comes from the OFT (page 57), which says:

Any purely discretionary right to set or vary a price after the consumer has become bound to pay is obviously objectionable. That applies particularly to terms allowing the supplier to charge a price on delivery of goods that is not what was quoted to the consumer when the order was placed. It also applies to rights to increase payments under continuing contracts where consumers are 'captive' – that is, they have no penalty-free right to cancel... such a clause is particularly open to abuse, because consumers can have no reasonable certainty that the increases imposed on them actually match net cost increases.

A degree of flexibility in pricing may be achieved fairly in the following ways:

Where the level and timing of any price increases are specified (within narrow limits if not precisely) they effectively form part of the agreed price. As such they are acceptable, provided the details are clearly and adequately drawn to the consumer's attention.

Any kind of variation clause may in principle be fair if consumers are free to escape its effects by ending the contract. To be genuinely free to cancel, they must not be left worse off for having entered the contract, whether by experiencing financial loss (for example, forfeiture of a prepayment) or serious inconvenience, or any other adverse consequences.

T-Mobile's changes to international roaming and subsequent refusal to allow early termination without charge go against both the wording and the principles of this guidance; a customer cannot continue to use their phone as they have previously without incurring financial loss (nor can they use it as they had previously agreed to), or they will suffer serious inconvenience by not being able to use their handset abroad as a result of the increased charges. There seems little doubt that in this situation, customers are captive in their contract and vulnerable to abuse.

T-Mobile's continued insistence that a customer's ability to make roaming calls is an additional service - despite their own definitions, terms and website stating otherwise - makes the matter difficult to resolve easily. We will have more information for you through the week, including letter templates and in-depth advice.

In the meantime, if you have any dealings with T-Mobile concerning this matter, tell us about it in the comments below. And if you are a T-Mobile customer and feel strongly about this, contact Ofcom as soon as possible to register your complaint - let us know what they say.

TOPICS:   Consumer Advice


  • Paul D.
    Great job with this guys! Sending a link to this through my office. I'm not even a T-Mobile customer, but I support all action against the rising amount of consumer abuse appearing now.
  • Liam
    When they hiked the non geographic numbers they also claimed this with me. I cancelled my DD with them so they are now threatening to take me to court for a drum roll please... £37. I have to pay within the week otherwise they will send a court notice. My knees are trembling.
  • kev
    I have just contact Beth at T mobile ... She didnt really know anything about changes and asked me if the text was from T mobile. She then went off and spoke to her line manager ...... He said that becuase they cannont help if the charges from abroad go up this is not there fault so the outstanding amount due to cancel would stand and I would have to pay to cancel early. I did say I do not belive this should be the case and I have taken names and line manager name and said I will be back to them as i do not see this is part of the contract that I had taken out. Was olite and she was helpful so i wished her a happy evenng and said I will be in touch!!!
  • Brian
    Hi, Brian here. What does all this mean, can i get out of my T-Mobile Contract?
  • Spencer
    Ok folks, for those of you who are serious about this, you will have to pursue the matter with T-Mobile legally. They learnt from Oranges mistake, they will have had their legal team look over this and are organized and prepared. If you're serious about this, send a recorded letter to T-mobile informing them you're cancelling due to a breach of their terms (highlight which terms). Inform them they have 7 days to respond. After 7 days send them another recorded letter, this time informing them that you will take them to small claims court if these additional charges take effect and give them a further 7 days. After which, go here: It's a guide to filing a small claims court hearing as well as the appropriate N1 form. Due to the time and expense involved in a court hearing, I would suggest you only pursue this if you are genuinely at detriment and these charge increases are going to seriously affect you. If you never use your phone abroad, and these charges wont affect you at all and you're just after a new handset, it probably isnt going to be worth the hassle, plus be prepared to stump up the hearing costs should you lose the case.
  • Spencer
    while it isnt necessary as legally you should have the right to use your phone however you wish, now and in the future, at the prices you agreed, Judges and Magistrates are not stupid people. If you can show the courts the previous times you have used your handset abroad, along with copies of the bill(s), it gives you the chance to prove you've actually got real concerns and there is real money at stake (not the speculative money it might cost if you chose to). You'll carry a lot more weight than somebody who never uses their phone and doesnt have a passport. Trust me, the judge will see straight through it.
  • Ty
    Nice, I got a G1 - so if i cancel i can keep it?
  • Paul S.
    We'll have a set of letter templates for customers to use in the next day. We also have more definitive advice on contract cancellation. Be aware that we cannot take responsibility if you decide to pursue any course of action that leads to legal action - that's entirely your decision to make. At the same time, please remember that a contract does not simply protect the bigger of the two entities involved. If T-Mobile are in the wrong (and we believe they are), then they simply cannot ignore their customers.
  • dp
    Couple of things to add: 1) You're best off getting a letter of 'deadlock' from them first, then going to the ombudsman. This is because (a) there's no financial risk to you (b) there is financial risk to them - they have to pay for the review, so they are more likely just to cave if they think you'll win anyway (c) it's better to show you've tried every other possible recourse before going to court or you could damage your case 2) It's really not that big a deal going to County Court - the most your risk is the cost of the court fees, they can't make you pay £££s for their legal advice 3) If you really want to live on the edge, just cancel the Direct Debit. They'll then have to sue you (and they might well not better if you write them one - no more - letter explaining why you're in the right) and even if you do lose (v unlikely) you'll just have to pay the court fees + interest. No harm to your credit rating / bailiffs etc unless you refuse to pay after losing in court, which would be silly. Hope that is helpful! Loving the fact that they are about to merge with Orange too lol
  • Jeffrey A.
    DP - not great advice tbh. 1) In the past, the Ombudsman have proven to be completely and utterly spineless in situations such as this, and after reviews have literally just replied with 'no decision made'. 2) True 3) Very very bad idea. Firstly you'll obviously lose your number. Secondly you'll end up being defaulted, having your credit history show the non payment of the bills, and ruining your credit history even before going to court. Nevermind if they take you to court and you end up with a CCJ. Thirdly if they do take you to court, the ball will be squarely in their court (so to speak) and you stand much less of a chance of success.
  • Gareth H.
    i'm trying to find a way out of my contract with t-mobile since i took out their G1. I've been with them for over 10 years and felt i was missold the G1, the 3 places i frequent the most doesnt have a 3g network, by the time i figured this out, i was too late to cancel my contract without penalties. i began to argue i was sold a product that is not fit for purpose, being a 3g handset with no 3g signal, so to cut a long story short i was happy when i found out i might be able to cancel under this. Soo......i just got off the phone from T-Mobile who will not cancel my contract without penalties. The guy i spoke to started off very pleasant, mentioning he had not heard about these increases, put me on hold, then came back well equipped with any argument i had. They state that roaming is an an additional service, its something i can remove if i want to and i make the choice if i want to roam or not. i came back with the standard arguments, its not an additional service, it forms part of my contract, you are in breach by increasing the roaming charges and how can an additional service be mandatory. i do in fact do quite a lot of roaming, choosing to spend my holidays outwith the EU, so this is going to have a detrimental effect upon me. The next course is definitely a letter to t-mobile, i'm just going by the work i did in claiming back my bank charges, taking them all the way to the small claims. i want out of my contract and look forward to the bitterwallet team helping me, keep up the good works boys & girls!
  • noel l.
    I am not sure the aggravation is worth the end result - fancy getting a CCJ for £37.00 simply not worth it - we have devised a way to get around international roaming charges altogether @ <a href=""<Kill International Roaming Charges
  • Spencer
    Just a pointer here.... A CCJ against you does not go onto your credit record if you pay in full during an alloted time. In most instances the judge will give you a week or 3 to pay the amount in full, which, if you do, wipes the judgement from your records and does not impact your credit score. Like I said though, only push it if your serious... It will cost you around £150 ish to get a hearing in a small claims court - which is reimbursed by the defendant if you win. If the judge finds in favour of T-mobile, you'll pay court costs and their reasonable out of pocket expenses (time off work, travel costs etc) And as for their comment about roaming being optional... that's nonsense. They're creating an artificial loophole which doesnt exist and doesnt stand up legally. Look at it like this... They say roaming is optional, its an additional service which is used at your discretion right? Well So is using text messages. You could just pick up your phone and make calls, rather than text. It's at your discretion. So by their logic, sending a text is not an essential service, it's not integral to you, ergo texting is an additional service you can use if you want to. So now T-mobile are in a position to charge £50 per message. And by their logic, that'd be just fine. It annoys me that they think they can get away with nonsense like this.
  • Waplord
    Good point Spencer, and as i was told by them "they dont have to tell you about any increases to anything thats an additonal service, but they may try to do so". Really think they need taking down a peg or two, they dont have an open invitation to charge me whatever they want and keep me as a customer!
  • Paul S.
    We've now published a full guide to help you cancel your T-Mobile contract. You'll find it here:
  • Cancelling C.
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  • jeff
    dont mean to piss in anyone's porridge here but for anyone facing an unexpectedly huge bill having used t-mobile abroad, i just had a £340 bill 'recalculated' and made to read £53...and if it worked for me..?
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  • Amilton S.
    Hi. Last August I got a mobile broadband Web'n't walk. It never worked fine, but it was what I had. So, 2 weeks ago it got worse. Impossible to stay on line for 3 minutes or so or even open any Word or Excel file. So, I decided it's not possible to go like this. On their data they inform that everything is working fine in my connection and for several times they sent me an advice that I'm was exceeding my allowances. I tried to sort out the problems talking to the CS. But it looks to be a team of idiots. Se same question is answered on different ways for each contacted people and no one is eble to fix the problem. Now I decided to suspend my contract and they said to me I can't go on this way because everything is working fine. I need to take legal actions against them. I need some advice please.
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