/ Technology

Bad phone signal at home – can you cancel your contract?

What happens if you’ve got rubbish mobile phone signal at home, but you’re locked into a one- or two-year contract? Is it easy to cancel? No, as many of the stories shared on last week’s BBC Watchdog showed.

For many of us, mobile phones are attached to us like another limb. They’ve become essential for organising our lives – whether it’s keeping in touch with friends and family or for making those dreaded work calls.

But however much you use it, the least you’d expect is to have a working phone signal at home. But that’s not always the case, as James told us on Twitter:

Most providers have a mobile coverage checker to see if you’ll get a good signal in your home or at work. This is something Vodafone advises:

‘We would always advise customers to check the coverage for the locations that are important to them before taking out an agreement with us or any other operator. They can check Vodafone coverage online using our network and coverage checker.

‘New Vodafone customers can also test their coverage over their first two-week period with us and return the phone to us, without any fuss, if they find the coverage isn’t satisfactory for their needs.’

You can also check the 3G and 4G signal for each of the main mobile providers in your area with our mobile coverage map.

Only getting signal in your garden

But what if your signal goes Pete Tong well into your contract? That’s what happened to Catherine Pugh, who shared her story on BBC Watchdog.

She’d been with Orange for years with perfect signal, until it started to go bad. In order to speak to someone she had to go outside to sit on a bench in her garden and point her mobile in the right direction. Catherine tried to get out of her contract, but was told she’d have to pay a £200 termination fee.

It turned out one of the phone masts in her area had been decommissioned and through perseverance she was able to get out of her contract. Orange told BBC Watchdog:

‘We look into each signal issue on its own merits but if it’s not possible to restore service, as is the case with Ms Pugh, we will release a customer from their contract.’

If you get a sustained and prolonged lack of service you may have a chance of getting out of your contract – you can read up on this in our consumer rights guide. It’s certainly not easy. So does something need to be done?

Ofcom and bad phone signal

Ofcom has said it’s supporting initiatives to improve mobile phone coverage, and recognises that it’s an issue the networks need to sort. It’s also providing people with better information on the quality of service they can get from each provider, so you can make better choices. But could it be doing more?

Should mobile providers be more upfront about your rights to cancel if you get poor signal? Have you tried to get out of your contract for persistent signal problems at home or at work? What happened? We’ll then share your comments with Ofcom.


hi, just joined the group and need some advice.
I am just coming to the end of a 12 month contract with o2, and want to change my network and contract, to a monthly one, with Sim only. I dont know if it my phone, a £100 htc bought from Tescos, or the o2 network, which is giving me slow connection to my emails, I dont download fils, or any of that, just want to check emails and use the internet, thats all. Which is the best network to use, any ideas

jamie says:
18 February 2015

4 months now and there still not fixing the mast I asked about leaving then and was told I’ll have to pay 300 pounds as works out 32.99 a month using 37mins a month

sean says:
13 June 2015

I work for a mobile phone network and though I should probably not be saying this, the best option by far is to save up and buy a phone outright. I bought the galaxy s5 outright.for 422 euros on an online site. The likes of pixmania and simplyelectronics.net offer great deals. I would have bought the same phone in ireland on payg direct from any carrier for at the lowest price 459.99 euros. The phone is unlocked and will stay that way. I requested it to be unlocked from vodafone and they said it already was unlocked. I tested and it is. I switch between my three and vodafone sims depending on varying coverage from time to time. I am on payg but there are great 30 days simo offers too. If you want a phone, the price has to be subsidised in your upgrade deal. You will have a lot of hassle getting out if things go wrong. The terms and conditions are cleverly worded. Even coverage checkers online state they are best estimates and not a guarantee of coverage in every house. Some of the networks offer wifi calling as well as femtocells or picocell signal boosters. Wifi calling is fantastic as it eliminates the need for a booster box and can be used anywhere you have wifi access. I may be biased but I think the networks are really trying hard. It’s annoying when it does not meet expectations but you cannot just ring up and say I want to cancel and expect the network just to cancel. They will need you to prove it is a clear denial of service, you’ll need to trythings such as isolation tests or sim swaps, provide examples, postcodes and they will be able to access your overall usage records so if you’re dropping two or three out of twenty calls a day, they won’t just right off hundreds of pounds. People need to be realistic too. It’s very complex. You may change address and move to blackspot for coverage or change your phone to a phone that may not be as good in terms of the rf equipment installed. New builds may go up to interfere with coverage. That can not be held against a mobile phone network. Before you make that call, examine your terms and conditions carefully, gather as much info as possible. Compare coverage with other customers on the same network in affected areas if you can. It can be any number of things. Hope this helps.


It is a great pity that so many companies now require all such discussion/negotiations to be on the telephone rather than by letter or email where the customer has a record of what was said. Whereas it may be true that people lie on the telephone more than face to face or in writing, but the converse is also true. That is people can hear what they want to hear and not understand fully what is said to them. If it is in writing, they can read and re-read.

Lawyers hide unethical or unpopular points in reams of terms and conditions, so the writing does need to be specific to each customer.

Maybe this is something Which? could consider: Insist that all legal customer agreements have the author(s) names appended, together with their office addresses. I wonder whether this may reduce the number of “clever” or unethical clauses?

sean says:
23 June 2015

It’s a noble idea but it won’t happen. You’re right. The notes on these accounts are dreadful. I know. You get people ringing in saying it’s in the notes. It’s like hieroglyphics half the time. Best thing is ask for a confirmation text of anything promised by an agent. It’s not nice to deal with. Cleaning up other people’s messes.

sean says:
23 June 2015

I would debate whether the clauses are unethical. Mobile phone networks can only do so much. To guarantee permanent coverage indoors which a lot of people expect from masts situated sometimes miles away, contending with cell site traffic, essential maintenance, line of sight issues and also other rfi issues from things like airfields etc is asking a lot.

Paul says:
12 August 2015

I have issues with Vodafone. No 3 or 4G signal where I live and intermittent calling signal. This was not an issue before but i now work from home more often. At my place of work (office) calls and internet are dropped regularly. I contacted the provider and was offered a signal booster for the house (£100) which i declined due to the cost. I was then passed around 4 departments before being advised I would need to pay the full cancellation fee. Whilst I appreciate this is a business to make money, and they need to recoup the cost of the provided phone there reluctance to do anything is terrible. In future I will only ever go for monthly SIM only contract as all providers are not customer focused.

Alex Michael says:
22 August 2015

I signed up to 3 yesterday because I liked the fact of unlimited data I looked on their website about network coverage and the signal appeard good ! But since I got home yesterday evening and today all I have had is 1 bar of signal and that’s outside and inside I also get no service as well appear for a majority of the time as well no matter where I am. I called up 3 to see what they do about cancelling a contract due to poor service / no service and was told I would need to pay off all my contract which is about £1200 odd, I don’t see as to why I should pay it off when I’m paying for them to provide me with a service and their not what can I do to go about cancelling it and not having to pay anything can anyone offer any suggestions I need to sort this asap !!!!