Cancelling Your Cellphone Contract: What You Need to Know

Signing a cellphone contract and getting the latest device in your hands is a fairly straightforward process, but things get a little more complicated when you try to cancel it. Let’s take a look at what you need to know and, more importantly, what the law says about cancelling your cellphone contract.

What kind of contract is it?

Cellphone contracts are usually fixed-term contracts, which means the agreement between you and the service provider lasts for a legally binding amount of time. The most common cellphone contract period is 24 months.

Can I cancel a fixed-contract before the stipulated expiry date?

Absolutely. As a consumer, your rights are protected by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), specifically Section 14, which deals with the expiry, renewal and cancellation of fixed-term agreements.

You are allowed to cancel the agreement any time before the date on the contract, but you have to give 20 business days’ notice in writing. What’s more, you also don’t have to give a reason.

Will I be penalised for early cancellation of my cellphone contract?

There will be consequences for early cancellation, but, as the law states, it “may not exceed a reasonable amount”. When it comes to determining what a reasonable amount is, the CPA sets out specific criteria. Factors include:

  • The amount which the consumer is still liable for up to the date of cancellation;
  • The value of the transaction up to cancellation;
  • The cost of the goods which will remain in possession of the consumer after cancellation;
  • The value of the products that are returned to the supplier;
  • The duration of the consumer agreement as initially agreed;
  • Losses suffered or benefits accrued by the consumer as a result of the consumer entering into the contract;
  • The length of notice of cancellation provided by the consumer; and
  • The general practice of the relevant industry. For example, you will be liable to pay all amounts owed up to the date of cancellation. This will include airtime, SMS and data bundles already used.

What if I am having issues with the cancellation?

If you receive pushback from a service provider regarding an early cancellation, think the “reasonable penalty” isn’t reasonable at all or realise that you are still being charged a monthly fee despite the cancellation, and it cannot be resolved with the actual mobile company, then you can approach the National Consumer Commission (NCC) for assistance. To do this, just download and complete a complaints form, which can be found on the website, and mail it back to the address stipulated.

The NCC is the primary regulator of consumer-business interaction in South Africa, and registers and assesses complaints, investigates alleged misconduct by businesses, refers individual complaints to Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) agencies (i.e. Provincial Consumer Affairs Authorities and relevant ombudsman schemes) for resolution, and represent consumers in the Consumer Tribunal amongst other things. There is no charge for the NCC’s services.

Make sure you have any necessary documents and relevant correspondence on hand to help strengthen your case.

We’ve Got Your Back!

If you have questions about cancelling your cellphone contract, feel free to get in touch with LAW FOR ALL’s legal professionals who can give you sound legal advice and guidance. If a service provider is giving you the runaround and you have trouble cancelling your contract, our lawyers can intervene. If you don’t have legal insurance cover, join today!