How to cancel your cellphone contract

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Being able to successfully cancel a cellphone contract with a company is a good sign that as a customer you are doing business with an ethical and trustworthy company. Honesty and transparency go a long way in building a good brand, and their behavior when you want to part ways with them will influence how you perceive them.

What does South African law say about the cancellation of cellphone contracts?

The South African government gazetted the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) of 2008, in Section 14(2) read together with Regulation 5 governs fixed-term agreements between two parties. Essentially, the CPA tries to regulate the relationship between consumers and businesses, and protect consumers from being exploited by credit providers.

The CPA act (the Act) says that a telco should charge a reasonable amount should you wish to cancel your contract early. It also says that you should be notified in a reasonable time that your contract is about to expire.

It further states the number of days you can give the notice to cancel, and in which manner you can give notice.

A customer has a right to return a cell phone or complain about the service they may have received. The telcos can’t bamboozle their customers, like in the past, with hard-to-understand legal jargon.

With the Act, the consumer is protected from being bullied, misled, or deceived by rouge call center agents, holding the companies who sell cellphone contracts accountable for the agent’s actions.

And with all laws, it is the consumer’s responsibility to seek knowledge and be aware of the agreements they get into with credit providers.

The Consumer Goods & Services Ombud website explains the rights of a consumer, in general terms, which can be read here.

How the contract cancellation process works

When you cancel a fixed-term cellphone contract you may go through a process that involves sending a notice to cancel, a confirmation of receipt of notice to cancel, and then the actual cancelation. This is not a formal process, but it is one we went through when we canceled our contract with Vodacom.

Giving the notice to cancel your cellphone contract

When a contract is nearing its expiry date you can tell your network provider that you will not renew it after it expires. You must give this notice 20 business days before the expiry date. This applies to fixed-term contracts, which are 24 or 36-month-long cellphone contracts, and most month-to-month contracts.

The notice to cancel must be in a recorded form. When you call your credit provider’s cancellations department your conversation is recorded, therefore it applies as a recorded form of cancellation. An email to the cancellations department or a message on their official Facebook or Twitter social media pages is also a written form of a notice, which is acceptable as a recorded notice.

When giving your notice to cancel the network provider/cellphone shop will have to verify that you are indeed the owner of the contract. As such we recommend calling in or messaging them on social media to go through a verification process at the moment of cancellation. Your email might not be acknowledged, get ignored, or not be returned to get the process of cancellation started.

Confirmation of receipt of cancellation

You MUST receive a confirmation of receipt of cancellation. The service provider needs to acknowledge that they indeed did receive your message of intention to cancel the contract.

Without an SMS, email, or some sort of written confirmation you may experience difficulty in proving that you requested a cancellation.

For example, have a look at this post on complaintsboard.com where a Vodacom customer called in and canceled their contract. The request to cancel was not implemented and they got billed for two more months after their contract expired.

So, be persistent until you get that acknowledgment.

The cancellation of the fixed-term contract

Once receiving the acknowledgment SMS or email then the next process is the actual cancellation. Your service provider will run its internal processes of canceling a contract. This means they will:

  • Calculate any outstanding fees. If your account is behind due to missed payments, has any penalties, or bills from Value Added Services, they will add them to a settlement quote or your final invoice and subsequent debit order
  • Set a cancellation date. Once the contract cancellation has been processed you will receive your final cancellation date. Cancellation date is the last day you will receive your contract benefits. A date will be confirmed with an SMS or email
  • Payments schedule. You may receive your settlement quote for payment or receive a final invoice with the last debit order.

How to cancel a cellphone contract that is about to expire

To cancel, follow these steps:

1. Find when your contract expires

Find the expiry date of your cellphone contract from your cellular network provider. This is essential to find out so that you can keep to the 20 business days cancellation notice you must give before the contract expiration date.

2. Contact your cellular network provider

Call your telco’s cancellations and retentions department and request a cancellation of your contract. Make sure to contact them at the end of the 23rd month of a 24-month contract or the end of the 35th month of a 36-month contract. We found out that we could also message them on their official social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter.

3. Verify yourself

Expect to go through an identity verification process. This is similar to the other times when you would call in to make changes or enquire about your contract details. The agent will go through your account to get your account details to ensure that you are canceling the correct contract.

4. Pay any outstanding bills

Your account will then be checked for any outstanding amounts. These are:

  • Any future subscriptions that were yet to be loaded (airtime, minutes, data, or SMSes)
  • The remaining installments for the cellphone
  • Unbilled usages such as subscription services and Out Of Bundle usage
  • Any other unpaid fees such as skipped monthly payments

5. Final invoice or settlement quote

If there are outstanding amounts then a settlement quote will be generated for you to sign and pay. A final invoice is also sent, which you will pay as per your arrangement.

6. Get your confirmation date

You should receive an SMS confirming that the cancellation has been loaded, and the last date when your account will be debited. Your cell number can be changed to prepaid at the end of your contract period.

When to cancel a month-to-month contract

When a fixed-term cellphone contract expires after 24 or 36 months and you do not notify the network that you would like to cancel then it automatically becomes a month-to-month contract.

But, you can cancel a month-to-month contract 20 business days before the start of a new month

  • Cancel a month-to-month cellphone contract that has expired at the beginning of a new month to allow it to end at the end of the same month.
  • Cancel a month-to-month data contract at the beginning of the new month

For example: If you want to cancel your month-to-month cellphone or data contract at the end of October 2022, then contact your cellular network within the first few days of October 2022.

When to cancel a 24-month contract

According to the Act, you can cancel your contract earlier than 24 months. But, the cancellation may attract cancellation fees from the service provider. This is so that the creditor can recoup any amounts outstanding from providing you with goods or services.

Cellphone early termination fees

Premature cancellation fees will vary with the different credit providers.

But, what is common between them is their need to try and recover their costs in the contract. The Act offers some reprieve to the consumer by saying that the supplier “may impose a reasonable cancellation penalty”. The telecommunications industry standard is no more than 75% of the total outstanding costs of the contract.

The costs to cancel a cellphone contract may include, but are not limited to:

  • Any subsidies for the device, airtime, minutes, or any other subsidies offered by the service provider as a promotion, or otherwise, in the contract
  • Any outstanding fees that stem from billings, out-of-bundle usage, or unpaid installments on the contract

The fees can be calculated as:

  • The (monthly subscription + monthly device installment + monthly subsidy) X (the number of months remaining) + (outstanding fees)
  • The above amount is then reduced by 25%

How to cancel a cellphone contract online

Cancel a cellphone contract online using:

  • Email
  • Social media messenger
  • Official app
  • Your verified online account

All the cellular contract creditors have a cancellations and retentions department which you contact using their email address. This cancellations email address is a group inbox available to all in the cancellations and retentions department.

Cellular contract cancellations letter template

To request a cancellation send an email to your cellular network provider or credit provider and use this template:

Good day

I am [Name + Surname}, residing at {your physical address}, with ID number {your South African ID or passport number}.

I now give 20 business day notice to cancel my contract with you for {cellphone number}. My contract started on {contract start date} and expires on {contract end date}. I do not wish to continue with the contract after its expiry date.

I wish to keep/not keep my cellphone number after my contract end date.

I further request that all settlement amounts be quoted and sent to me. All bills are finalized and sent to me for payment. All outstanding fees are completed and sent to me. A final invoice is sent to me.

Cancel on the Facebook or Twitter

Send the official Facebook page or Twitter support account a request to cancel your contract. If supported they will take you through their cancellation process and eventually start a cancellation for you.

Official app

Using the Vodacom ToBi bot on the Vodacom app we were able to request a cancellation.

Because we have an authenticated account the ToBi app found our account using our cellphone contract number. We then requested a cancellation and eventually received our settlement quote.

You can ask TOBi to help in canceling your cellphone contract.
You can ask TOBi to help in canceling your cellphone contract. Screenshot source: vodacom.co.za

FAQ

Why am I still being billed even though I canceled my contract?

Check if you received any communication about the cancellation of your contract. There may be other hanging issues with your credit provider which you need to finish up.

Can I cancel my contract online?

To cancel online chat with an agent on an official Facebook or Twitter account.

Moemedi Segoje

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