A few years back it was normal to leave a mobile phone contract or get an upgrade every 12 months.
Now, however, if you're paying for a top-end handset, you'll probably be tied in to a contract of two years or more, allowing you to spread the cost of your handset over that time.
But although that may be good news for anyone who wants to avoid the upfront cost of an expensive phone, it can also mean being trapped in a contract for a long time.
So what can you do if your circumstances change? Maybe the contract no longer meets your needs, maybe it's too expensive, or maybe you've moved house and found the signal isn't as good from your new home.
Here, we show you what your rights are and whether you can get out of your mobile contract, depending on your situation.
- If your fixed contract is coming to an end
- If your contract is brand new
- If you're still in your contract
- If your signal is rubbish
If you're at the end of your contract, you should compare prices and consider switching straight away, so you are not paying more than you need to.
You can learn how to keep switching simple in 'How to switch smoothly' below.
If you've just started a new mobile phone contract and you've changed your mind, you have 14 days from when the phone arrives in which you can cancel the service without giving a reason.
However, you'll probably have to pay for the days you have used.
What if you still have months – or years – to run on your contract?
One option is to simply port the number to a new provider under a new contract, but if you do that you'll almost certainly be charged the remaining months as a lump sum penalty fee, and unless you're near to the end of the contract term, this is likely to be expensive.
Instead, you could see if your provider will allow you to downgrade to a cheaper contract. Some providers will let you downgrade after a set time, such as half your contract or after six months, while others will allow you to swap to the next cheapest tariff, perhaps with a small admin charge.
Unfortunately, some don't let you downgrade at all.
Quite often, it's worth sticking with your current mobile provider until the minimum term is almost up, even if you really want that new handset.
There may be few things more frustrating than paying a monthly fee for a phone you can barely use.
Unfortunately, however, it's unlikely you'll be able to use poor signal as a reason to get out of a contract early. But that could change if the government agrees to a proposed new law.
Once you've decided to make the switch, you should be able to keep your existing number. To do this, you need to call your current mobile provider and ask for your PAC - that's a Pre-Authorisation Code - and give this to your new provider; they will then arrange the transfer of your number.
It's quite likely that your current phone company will want 30 days' notice of your intention to switch. The process is easy to do and is free.
Finding the right deal
If you've just escaped a pricey plan then you will want to make doubly sure that the next contract you sign up for is right for you and is the best price available.
That's where MoneySuperMarket can help; visit our mobile phone page to compare all the latest phones and deals, including contract, pay-as-you-go and SIM only.
You can even search by phone model, so you know you're getting exactly what you want.