In line with new legislation introduced on 15 February 2020, all broadband, phone, pay-TV and mobile phone providers are now required to notify customers when their contract is about to expire. This lets customers know that they can start shopping around for a better deal.
Both end of contract notifications (ECNs) and out of contract notifications (or annual best tariff notifications) have been put in place by industry regulator Ofcom, something which Uswitch has heavily campaigned for over the years.
When the time comes and you're eligible to switch, you’ll get a letter, email, or text to tell you your contract will soon be coming to an end, or that it's expired.
This is a real victory for consumers, as you’ll now be told when you’re free to look at other tariffs, and ultimately save money with a better deal.
Ofcom End of Contract Notifications regulations
According to recent studies, as many as 8.8 million people in the UK pay over the odds for their broadband after their initial contract is up. And millions of UK customers continue to be charged for the price of their handset long after they've paid it off.
Ofcom is now trying to put a stop to this 'culture of over-payment' by insisting broadband and mobile phone providers inform their customers when they're close to the end of their contract so they can seek green provider pastures in the shape of a better deal.
Networks and providers are now legally obligated to get in touch with you 10 to 40 days before the end of your contract to let you know you'll soon be free to shop around for a new mobile plan.
And if you choose to stay with your provider, they've still got to contact you once a year when you're out of contract to remind you that you're eligible to switch.
Do you know if you're in or out of your mobile or broadband contract?
Until now, it's been down to the customer to know if they're in or out of contract.
And because of that, mobile and broadband providers have been able to get away with overcharging millions of customers who weren’t aware they were eligible to switch to a better deal.
Broadband providers, for example, often attract new customers with discounted deals. But the price of the deal normally applies only during the initial minimum contract term (usually 12 to 24 months). After this period, your monthly payments are likely to go up quite dramatically — something that isn’t always made clear to consumers when they sign up.
Meanwhile, millions of mobile users have been stung for extra cash as networks have continued to charge them for their handsets long after they’ve paid off the price of the phone.
But now that mobile and broadband providers have to let you know when you’re free to switch, it’ll be much easier to avoid being overcharged.
When will I receive my end of contract notification?
Both broadband and mobile providers will now be required to contact you between 10 and 40 days before the end of your contract. They'll also have to contact you every year that you're out of contract with information about your current tariff and the best deals available to you.
So even if you choose to take no action once your contract has run out, you'll be reminded of what else is out there.
These are officially known as Annual Best Tariff Notifications (ABTN) and will begin rolling out from 15 February 2020 to broadband, pay-TV and mobile phone customers. So if you’ve been out of contract for a while, you likely would have received one by now.
What information will I get in my end of contract notification?
There are four pieces of information that every broadband, pay-TV, and mobile phone provider must include:
- The price the customer is currently paying
- The end date of their current contract
- The new price the customer will be paying once their contract ends
- The best alternative deals that the provider can offer
Here's some other things that should be included:
- Information about notice period (or if a notice period applies)
- Confirmation that there will be no exit fees after the contract end date
- Details of all the services included in your subscription, including pay-TV, streaming services, insurance or handset costs
- Other contracts with your provider and end dates (where termination of one would impact the other)
- How to terminate the contract
- Options available to the customer
How will I receive my end of contract notification?
Regulations stipulate that providers communicate with your preferred method. This could be by post, email, or text message.
So keep an eye on your inbox and be sure to always read messages from your provider so that you don’t miss out on important information.
The benefits of end of contract notifications
The great news is, anyone who has a mobile phone or broadband package will ultimately benefit from end of contract and out of contract notifications. So that's most people.
While there are some savvy customers out there who keep a close eye on when their contracts are expiring, most of us could do with a convenient reminder telling us it’s time to save some money.
And now that more customers than ever will be shopping around, we’re hoping to see deals becoming even more competitive.
Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at Uswitch.com, says: “For years, providers have profited from not always being entirely transparent about the status of their contracts.
“The introduction of end-of-contract notifications and annual out-of-contract reminders should finally put an end to this murky practice and help consumers know the best time to consider their options.
“Our figures suggest mobile and broadband consumers could be £1 billion a year better off if they take the opportunity to move to a better value deal.
“Uswitch has spent years campaigning for these measures, which we hope will give a much needed shake-up to the industry and put more power in consumers’ hands to get off packages that are no longer good enough."
Out of contract notifications
Officially known as Annual Best Tariff Notifications (ABTNs), out of contract notifications mean that every mobile phone and broadband provider has to communicate regularly with customers who are out of their initial contract to remind them that they don’t have to stay on the same tariff.
Some 20 million out-of-contract customers should have received their first notification from providers since 15 February 2020. From the date of the first notification, each customer not subject to a fixed commitment period will start to receive one notification per year.
What information will be in my out of contract notification?
Ofcom, the telecoms industry regulators, has put together the following items that legally must be included in your notifications:
- The fact that you are not within a fixed commitment period for the contract
- Your current monthly price
- Information about your notice period (or if a notice period applies)
- Your current services (including ancillary services)
- Other contracts you have with that provider and their end dates (where termination of one would impact the other)
- Options available to you
- The providers’ best tariffs
Broadband end of contract notifications
Figures from Ofcom suggest that nearly nine million customers are collectively overpaying by a staggering £1 billion each year for their broadband and TV services.
As they complete their initial contract, customers are then faced with a jump in prices of about 28%. That's a big increase.
And as a lot of people aren’t aware of this, or forget when their contract is up, they keep paying the higher price long after they’re free to shop around for a cheaper deal.
End of contract notifications mean that millions of customers will be made aware of this and will be given a chance to switch and save rather than stay put and overspend.
Want to switch to a better broadband deal? Compare broadband deals with uswitch.
Was I overcharged for my mobile phone contract?
In 2018, Citizens Advice estimated that four million people in the UK were overcharged for handsets they'd already paid off, totalling £490 million in charges. 2017 was a similar case, with customers often paying up to £450 a year after they’d paid off the cost of their phones.
In the past, despite pressure to do otherwise, mobile phone carriers were under no obligation to make their customers aware or refund them any overcharged fees.
These instances of over-charging will be a thing of the past with the introduction of end of contraction notifications and annual best tariff notifications. Customers will now be made aware of exactly how much they’re being charged and what they’re paying for.
Want to switch to a better mobiles deal? Here are all our best mobile phone deals.
Prefer a SIM-only deal? Take a look at all our best SIM only deals.
End of contract notifications from major mobile network providers
Since last year, all of the UK’s mobile networks have been sending out end of contract notifications to their customers in compliance with Ofcom’s policy. But since there’s currently not much guidance on how they should look, the providers have taken slightly different approaches to the way they communicate them.
O2 end of contract tariff options
When your O2 contract is coming to an end, the network operator will get in touch with you via text or email. If you happen to be out of contract with O2 already, it will send you an annual reminder that you’re still paying for an old tariff.
In these notifications, O2 will offer you a selection of new plans that you could move onto once your fixed-term is finished. However, you should also get the option to cancel your contract.
While the plans it offers you will be better than just remaining out of contract, O2’s offers might not necessarily be the best on the market for your needs. So make sure you look elsewhere for similar deals to see if you could get a better deal with another provider.
Customers who have signed up directly with O2 will be automatically moved to a30-day rolling contract that comes with an equivalent monthly allowance of calls, texts and data.
However, so far it has made no specific commitments to provide reduced prices for those who purchased contracts and handsets from third parties such as Carphone Warehouse. And as this accounts for the majority of phone sales in the UK, most O2 customers will not be put on a cheaper plan automatically.
Vodafone end of contract notification
Vodafone will let you know via text or email that your fixed-term agreement is coming to an end. It will also remind you once a year if you’re out of contract to ensure you are aware of the range of options you have. This includes the opportunity to upgrade your plan to a new tariff.
With Vodafone, you will continue to pay the same amount for the same contract terms if you choose not to renew or switch. This means that if you signed up for a handset deal, you will still be paying extra for a phone you have already paid off. Moving onto a new contract will ensure you’re getting the most from the money you’re spending.
Three end of contract reminders
Three hasn’t published exact details on how it communicates end of contract or annual best tariff notifications based on Ofcom’s guidance. However, like all other mobile network providers, it has committed to offering its customers the option to renew their Three contract, upgrade to another tariff or cancel their Three contract after its end date.
Any one of those three options is more cost-effective than staying out of contract, especially because unlike some other providers, Three is yet to make a commitment to apply a monthly discount to out of contract customers. So make sure to weigh up the above options once your fixed plan comes to an end.
EE end of contract notification
EE will send you an end of contract reminder at least two weeks before your fixed-term agreement finishes.
It will contain a selection of EE deals based on your current monthly bill and your mobile data usage. However, you will also have the opportunity to switch to another mobile provider, so it is well worth shopping around before upgrading.
If you choose not to renew your contract, EE will send you an annual reminder 12 months from the initial date that your fixed-term ended. It will then continue to do so once a year from then on. This reminder will contain a range of new EE tariffs, although they might not be the most competitive deals. So it is always a good idea to do a price comparison search online.
EE won’t increase your monthly bill after your fixed term period ends, but it’ll still charge you a full price for an out-of-date deal. If you bought a mobile phone as part of your plan, that means you’ll be paying the same price as you were in your fixed term, despite the fact that you’ve already paid for your mobile phone in full.
If you want to keep your mobile phone but stay on the same contract terms, you can move to an EE SIM-only plan or switch to a SIM only deal from another mobile network provider.
Tesco Mobile contract ending reminder
There’s not much detail on Tesco Mobile’s website about end of contract notifications, but like other providers it will send you a reminder when your contract is close to ending. Plus, it has also reduced its out of contract prices in line with EE.
The message you receive from Tesco Mobile will contain options to either upgrade to a new tariff, which you can do for no extra cost, or to cancel your contract and find a new contract elsewhere.
Virgin Mobile contract end date notification
Virgin Mobile moves its out-of-contract customers onto monthly rolling plans with equivalent data and minutes after their fixed plan ends, and will continue to bill you in the same amount for its service. So once again, while your monthly bill won’t increase, you’ll still be paying more than you need to for an outdated plan.
This means, as is the case with other providers mentioned, starting a new contract with either Virgin Mobile or another provider will probably still work out cheaper for you, so it’s well worth shopping around.
If your contract is coming to an end soon, or if you’ve received an out of contract notification from your provider, compare our best mobile phone deals to see if you could get a tariff that’s more suited to you.