Cancelling your cell phone contract is easy

23 May 2016

Just like ending a long term relationship, cancelling your cell phone contract can be stressful. But often times, necessary. I am certain there are many of us who have been stuck in bad relationships and have felt that there is no way out. There is.

It is about making the decision to get out of it, doing what needs to be done, putting on your “big girl panties” and taking a stand. It is about saying “no more”. It is about ending that bad relationship. And the same goes for your cell phone contract.

Great advice.
But isn’t it easier said than done? How do we go about this tricky “break up” be it a girl, a guy or your service provider?

Who’s the guy/girl/cell phone contract anyway?

The dreaded cell phone contract. My oh my. How we dread this.

Getting out of a mobile phone contract used to be as difficult as leaving a long term relationship. You normally had to stick it out for your full contract term (which is usually 24 months) and thereafter give notice of your intention to cancel the agreement. “Those were the days my friend” (and not in a good way). I can thankfully inform you, that is no longer the case.

Like any “advice columnist” worth their grain of salt, I am going to give you the in’s and out’s of ending your bad long term relationship with your service provider.

First, communication is always key 

Firstly according to Section 14(2)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA), service providers need to provide you with 40–80 business days’ written notice or “any other recordable form” of the fact that your cell phone contract is coming to an end, thereby giving you the opportunity to cancel the contract on time. A “this is just not working out” type of scenario. Which is 100% fine. I mean not everyone is compatible. Service providers included.

On top of that, service providers are no longer allowed (according to the CPA) to immediately renew your cell phone contract without your express permission. Whew, that’s a relief. It’s like someone you have just broken up with taking residence on your favourite couch without any indication of their intention to leave. Thankfully the CPA is like your very own Interim Protection Order and prevents this from happening. At all times it is up to you, the consumer, to decide whether you wish to continue, wish to cancel or wish to terminate early. The choice is yours.

If you need to cancel your cell phone contract, for whatever reason (“it’s not you, it’s me”), you can give your service provider 20 (twenty) business days written notice to this effect (Section 14(2)(b)(bb) of the CPA). You do not even have to fully explain or give reasons why your relationship needs to come to an end. Think of it as your “Dear John” letter – send the 20 business days’ written notice of cancellation, say it’s over and be done with it.

Make sure however that you send the written notice by email, post or even fax and always keep a copy. You want to be sure that the message is received loud and clear and that you have proof. No comebacks, no “please reconsider’s”. Just a clean break. Oh and a little helpful tip – provide your bank with a copy of this letter as well to avoid any future unwanted and unnecessary debit orders from going off.

Consequences of your actions

However, always remember that with every decision in life and especially when ending a relationship, there may be consequences to your actions. What do I mean? Any charge that may occur due to early cancellations.

Mind you, the service provider can only charge a “reasonable penalty” which in terms of Regulation 14(2) of the CPA means that they “may not exceed a reasonable amount”.In other words the service provider is expressly prohibited from charging the full amount owing in respect of the remainder of the contract. I sense an “Amen” somewhere.

You will however be liable to your service provider for the amounts owed up to the date of cancellation, such as the airtime you have already used to date plus any SMS’s or data bundles used to date. Fair enough I guess. (For a full list of various factors taken into account when arriving at a reasonable amount refer to Regulation 5(2) of the CPA).

Keep in mind though that while the CPA is on your side, the consequences you may have to face all depend on the service provider you are breaking up with. According to a Business Tech article entitled “SA mobile contract cancellations: what you will pay”, the following is set out:

while the Consumer Protection Act has ensured increased protection for consumers, SA mobile operators vary when it comes to charging for early contract cancellations.

Cancelling you contract with MTN

According to MTN chief customer experience officer, Eddie Moyce, in accordance with the CPA MTN charges the following cancellation penalties for early termination:

All unbilled and outstanding invoices at the time of termination (if any).

One month’s subscription.

Balance owing on the device.

Cancelling your contract with Vodacom

Vodacom says it charges a maximum cancellation fee of 75% which is determined by where a customer is in their contract.

“If a customer cancels early on we will still need to recoup the handset and subsidies whereas later on in the contract the cancellation fee will be much less.

“Basically, if a customer wanted to cancel their contract our systems would look at the remaining monthly subscription as well as any additional pay-in they did on their handset. From there the system calculates what the customer owes and, as per CPA guidelines, we then reduce that amount by 25%,” it said.

Cancelling your contract with Cell C

Cell C said it amended its subscriber agreement to be CPA compliant prior to the implementation of the CPA.

Customers are entitled to cancel their subscriber agreements prior to the expiry date, it said.

“With regards to early cancellations, Cell C has introduced a reasonable cancellation penalty which is linked to the value of the goods supplied to the customer.

“In addition to the cancellation penalty, the customer will remain liable for all subscription charges and usage fees that have been billed, but not yet paid by the customer,” Cell C said.

Cancelling your contract with Telkom

A Telkom spokesperson said it was difficult to provide a single answer as the charges differed in relation to the package, device and how far into the contract, the customer was. “It’s a moving target,” the spokesman said.

In a document on the group’s website, Telkom says for early terminations: “The subscriber shall be liable to pay upon early termination or cancellation of the contract, where applicable, any associated costs such as administration charges, outstanding device costs, service charges etc.

“The early termination/cancellation fee will be calculated at the time of requesting the early termination.”

Possible charges

In short, once you have made the decision to cancel your cell phone contract with your service provider, make sure you have informed yourself of all possible charges that may be accounted to you so that there are no surprises down the road. A good place to look would be on your service provider’s website, the contract you signed with them, or alternatively, calling their customer care number. On the MTN website the following is set out:

“Call 808 from an MTN number or 083-1808 from a Landline or non MTN number, alternatively you may send your request via e-mail to: [email protected] (Estimated response on emails between 3 to 5 working days). It is also important to note that there is a minimum of 30 days’ and maximum 90 days notice before the term end of your contract.”

Don’t look back

In closing, as your very own “relationship guru”, I would like to part with some salient advice: –“when it is time for you to venture out, don’t let fear have you looking back at what you are leaving behind.”  Make sure to send the 20 days written notice of cancellation and you will never have to.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)

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