Does the 2G switch-off mean you can cancel your 3 contract?

Bitterwallet - cancel your 3 contract?In October, our favourite service provider Three began disabling substantial parts of their 2G network. This was in fact supplied by Orange, and used to provide coverage in postcodes where Three's 3G was weak or non-existent.

Three claimed they were only doing this in areas where their 3G network was 'strong'; their reasoning in removing 2G access was that many handsets were roaming onto a 2G signal when adequate 3G coverage was available, meaning Three had to pay carriage costs to Orange.

So that was that and everyone was happy. No, of course they weren't.

For starters, it doesn't look like a very good job was done of tell anyone - judging by the comments on Three's blog (and plenty of other forums), the switchover caught plenty of people by surprise.

Another frustration is that even in areas that have adequate 3G coverage, congestion at peak times is causing a loss of signal, now there's no 2G network to fall back on. Many customers have also disagreed with Three's assessment of how handsets work on the two networks:

Surely where 2G roaming is used, by definition it’s needed as I know from bitter experience (and lots of calls to Three technical support) that handsets hang on to even a very weak 3G signal for as long as absolutely possible before roaming to 2G.

I understand that sometimes there has to be a commercial decision, but in effect you have reduced the coverage of your network in these areas and must accept that will impact some users.

A 2G backup service is much better than no service, regardless of whether a 3G service is “provides a great experience, not just voice and text” Where I live even where coverage is excellent according to the coverage checker, there are still small pockets where my phone goes to roaming because the 3G signal isn't covering it.

A couple of interesting points to note since all this began a month ago. First is the admission by a member of Three's moderation staff that they accept some customers are likely to be adversely affected:

Our own 3G network now covers 97% of the UK population. It’s the UK’s biggest 3G network. That’s why we have turned off 2G roaming across the country where our 3G coverage is strong. Any change in coverage can affect some individuals, but the net result is a better 3G experience for the vast majority. We want to provide a great 3G experience – not just voice and text.

The second is an email from avid Bitterwallet reader hooker1uk, who updated us on his experience with Three:

[Three] will try and play you around the houses, but they eventually they see it's not worth trying when you prove problems exist. and they offer to cancel your contract!

I was hit by this and told my phone(s) were broke, [but] I've just been allowed to cancel all three of my contracts with them.

Three has the least customer-friendly Terms and Conditions available of any service provider (a PDF document of 36 pages of texts, reproduced in a two page document), but digging through it finds a clause concerning 'Disruption to Three Services:

5.9 There may be situations when Three Services are not continuously available or the quality is affected and so we cannot guarantee continuous fault-free service:

(c) when you are in areas not covered by the Three Network. In these cases Three Services relies on other operator's network where we have no control.

The issue is Three is no longer willing to rely on other networks in most areas, which means Three has deliberately brought about a change in its service. So here's the cancellation clause:

10.1 You may end this agreement in the following ways:

(d) Within one month of a detrimental variation to your agreement... (a Cancellation Fee will not be charged).

Unreliable or non-existent network coverage as a result of Three's own actions can certainly be considered to be a detrimental variation, so what should you do? It'd certainly help your cause to provide some evidence that the change has been detrimental in your circumstances. Three seem to rely heavily on their coverage map for this:
Bitterwallet - cancel your 3 contract?
Check not only your home postcode but your place of work too - if you can't use your phone as you previously did, in any place where you spend a significant amount of time, then it's fair to say you are detrimentally affected by the change.

In areas where there's network congestion, the moderators on the Three blog are attempting to appease customers by telling them new cell towers will be built in the next several months to improve coverage. Even if you're in an area that should receive coverage but is struggling because of congestion and no 2G then there's probably a case for compensation, such as a reduction in your monthly tariff for several months.

Ultimately, if you are adversely affected by the changes, you should at least have a discussion with customer services. And good luck with that.


  • Paul (.
    hiya I've now been told my mast is also congested, and will be for up to 3 months, anyone leaving 3 as a result. make sure you are clear with them, as 3's CSR's will try and use selective hearing to aggrevate the issue, as i had this morning. Hooker1uk (you helped me when orange fiddled customers last year after bitterwallet showed there secret charge increases. thanks for posting my tip :) )
  • Andy
    It does say a variation to your Three services, so ultimately, a back up 2G network is not provided by Three and is not part of their services. However, despite what you've said, Three has an exceptionally reasonable cancellation policy where customer's have had a degraded service as a result of the change. However, you do need to be able to show that there are dropped calls etc. simply not using your services and claiming they don't work will still show that you've been connected to the network.
  • Ben
    Both my wife and I are on three, and both of us have noticed a reduction in signal across the yorkshire area. I wonder if this has anything to do with it.
  • Paul (.
    Andy i do have proof, and others do too. mainly being the following. *Incoming calls not connecting, recieving voicemail message 2 hours later. (messages not sending thoughout the day) the CSR who confirmed i could cancel tried to call my mobile which was left in the same place as i called them ( i use handsfree so my kids think it's grandad otherwise and try and pinch the phone otherwise) could not call me as it kept failing., he used the landline in the end! verbal confirmation from three that the masts in my area are severely congested since turning off the 2g mast *devices crashing when they can't latch on to a 2g or 3g signal leaving you with no signal Ben i would call them about it. as it's a problem which will only get worse until more masts are installed!
  • Sasha
    Speaking from experience, you can never cancel your 3 contract. Ever. Even though my minimum term was up, I spent two hours on the phone with them in an endlessly repeating conversation. "Ok sir, I understand you'd like to cancel, but first let me offer you this..." In the end I stopped paying them and they ruined my credit rating with a bunch of defaults. We're still in dispute over two years later - such a fuss over a 6 month contract!
  • Deepz
    I took out an iPhone with them in October. I regularly go to a place with reduced signal. Is this enough to cancel my contract and if so - what exactly would I need to say to them?
  • Alexander B.
    I recently managed to cancel 2 contracts with 3 no problem at all, also supplied me with 2 pac codes by sms the same day, although they did say they would charge me £15 to unlock the handsets though.
  • Paul (.
    @ Deepz are you missing a lot of calls where they are not ringing through? Log it all down before you call, 333, option 1, option 4 option 2 explain the situation to them and they will tell you if you can or not. :) @Alexander Graham Bell, the shops in towns do it cheaper, and some devices can be done for free! @Sasha they were really bad a few years back, I'm sure they were reprimanded over similar complaints! Contact watchdog over it More info is
  • Deepz
    Just called them up. I have four contracts with them and an area that I am in a lot has not much coverage at all. My house, although it shows great coverage, has zero reception on some phones. When I spoke to the customer services person about it they wanted me to refer to the technical team as its a reception issue. I have now spoken to them and they have taken down the postcodes and will get back to me in 72 hours. Now do I just wait for them to get back to me? Is there anything I should push for to get me out of my contract? Just keep pointing out the 10.1 part of the t's and c's?
  • Paul (.
    Deepz, let them do there thing, and remind them of 10.1, (although i didn't as i had not read the terms originally) I received my Porting Authority Codes tonight for all 3 phones. do not let them take the phones back either!
  • Paul R.
    I had hardly any signal at home from October onwards. Contacted customer service who after a few calls agreed to cancel my contract ( only a month or so old) and pay compensation. Be patient and provide evidence.
  • Ten B.
    [...] Does the 2G switch-off mean you can cancel your 3 contract? [...]
  • misterbaz
    3's email response team quickly conceded there were "issues" that might not be resolved quickly and offered to end my contract with no termination fee. But when I rang up to sort that out, no-one seemed to know anything about it and I was sent round the houses for about 80 minutes and told it would take two weeks for an engineer to check the problem. I was going to cancel the direct debits but am now wary of this after Sasha's experience.
  • junglemonkey
    Just did this. Called 333, explained that I had experienced poorer coverage for some time due to not falling back onto Orange 2G anymore (had to give them work and home postcodes), and they terminated my contract without penalty and with the minimum of fuss. 3 months into 24 month contract. They offered me my HTC Desire for £250 but said no.
  • Phil
    I've been having a NIGHTMARE with this. i could only get 2g in my flat but now i can't get anything since they switched it off. I've been in contact with the tech services dept of 3 for around 3 months and they keep fobbing me off every 2 weeks with "we've sent engineers to repair the tower in the area". They won't cancel my contract without charging me!!! I'm using an o2 PAYG sim now, which works fine on 2g in my flat. I've been with 3 for 7 years now, can't wait til ym contract runs out in december. AVOID 3.
  • Rachel
    My network has been useless for the past few months, I'm only 11 months into my contract and have another 13 to go. If I could cancel my contract does this mean I will have to pay for my iPhone or give it back? I don't see the point in paying over 30 pounds for a network that is no existent. Really disappointed with this.
  • 3 C.
    [...] not fit for purpose and if you call 3 customer services on 333 (0843 737 3333 from a landline), you should be able to leave their contracts early without a cancellation charge due to the 2G [...]
  • SE
    As the article said, with the switchover I cant get a signal. Originally, I thought it could be the iphone and didnt spot the 2g switching off as at the time myiphone was not capable of doing so I swapped it with a galaxy with the purpose of being able to switch to 2g. Then when I realised they have switched it off in my area, I was furious. Now, I've been to law school and studied contract law and here are some points; 1 Reliance and Legitimate Expectation Even if not written in the contract, there must be reliance on goods/services/contract. ie relying on the 2g network. 2 If they change even the slightest detail/service you will be allowed to estinuish the contract. The agreement of the contract is a snap shot in time and any changes to service etc must be agreed to. If you werent given any option or notification, this would end the contract. Obviously 3 will keep switching off 2g quiet! 3 S.1 of the Sales and Supply of Goods Act 1994 (elaborating the original S.14 of Sales of Goods Act 1979) states; (1)In section 14 of the M1Sale of Goods Act 1979 (implied terms about quality or fitness) for subsection (2) there is substituted—“(2)Where the seller sells goods in the course of a business, there is an implied term that the goods supplied under the contract are of satisfactory quality.(2A)For the purposes of this Act, goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking account of any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all the other relevant circumstances.(2B)For the purposes of this Act, the quality of goods includes their state and condition and the following (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods—(a)fitness for all the purposes for which goods of the kind in question are commonly supplied,(b)appearance and finish,(c)freedom from minor defects,(d)safety, and(e)durability.(2C)The term implied by subsection (2) above does not extend to any matter making the quality of goods unsatisfactory—(a)which is specifically drawn to the buyer’s attention before the contract is made,(b)where the buyer examines the goods before the contract is made, which that examination ought to reveal, or(c)in the case of a contract for sale by sample, which would have been apparent on a reasonable examination of the sample.” Needless to say, I've cancelled by DD with 3 and dared them to meet me in court. Let's see if they have the bottle to do so! Apologies for the length but I hope you find it informative.
  • Judith N.
    Ornge/Tmobile signal lost towards end of June 2012. No signal at all in house or garden in Dorridge, Solihull. How do I know if due to turning off of 2G roaming service?

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