/ 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.


It’s about time we get rid of two year contracts and move to monthly rolling contracts that can be cancelled if there is a problem with the service provider, whether it is poor signal or unexpected price rises.

Though I always have a mobile signal in my home, the quality varies and I have no intention of giving up my landline.

Andrew says:
24 October 2014

Monthly rolling contracts exist already, but if you want a phone with it then how else do you expect to pay for the device?


I appreciate that these contracts are already available, and they would be more competitive if more people used them. It’s possible to buy phones, and that’s what I’ve always done.


Andrew – why not pay for the device just like any other consumer product? When buying a television, you don’t expect Sky or Television Licensing to supply your television on a subsidised basis. When buying a laptop, you don’t expect your ISP to supply your laptop on a subsidised basis. So why do this with a mobile phone? Just buy the phone like any other product and pay for the service separately. This straightforward approach nearly always works out cheaper than a bundled phone and service contract, and the difference is most noticeable with iPhones.

r angus says:
26 October 2014

take control
make your case
if its reasonable and they do not listen to your reason, cancel the d/d
yes its not ideal, but I’m sick of pandering to the likes of mobile ph company’s and banks and ins compnays.
let them pursue you for a return to your uninterrupted , easy money, d/d,
why is it that people settle for interruption whilst giving uninterrupted money by d/d?
take charge, sort them out, u can sort ur credit out later


After 15 years as a happy Orange customer, deterioration of the network made the service unusable much of the time, so I switched to giffgaff at the beginning of this year, which operates on the O2 network.

After Orange UK and T-Mobile UK merged and introduced free roaming between the two networks in late 2010, customers of both networks enjoyed improved coverage, i.e. two networks instead of one previously. However, soon after the rebranding to EE in late 2012 along with closer integration of the two legacy networks, EE started decommissioning thousands of transmitters, supposedly where it had duplicate coverage from the two legacy networks. However, not only did it remove duplicate coverage but it also removed coverage that existed before the merger, creating new coverage blackspots which never existed previously.

Consumers should stop signing up to 12-month and 24-month contracts. Get a 1-month SIM-only contract instead and buy the phone separately; this costs much less in the long run.

r angus says:
26 October 2014

dont think buying the phone is the answer unless u r happy with a 3 or 4 yr old ph.
if u want the best it has to be on a contract
a contract is 2 way though and no service means u should not pay them and so if interruptions continue or u receive continual bad service from cust service then surely u can stop paying to show u mean business and u can correct any alleged bad payer criticism later
take the elad do not suffer, its a 2 way contract, if they break, in your opinion, penalise and take the lead
say u can pay and will pay for the promised service of both good signal and good customer service
that is what u likely signed up for


r angus, how did you arrive at “dont think buying the phone is the answer unless u r happy with a 3 or 4 yr old ph. if u want the best it has to be on a contract“? This is totally false. Take the following examples:

1. iPhone 6 64GB bought from Apple for £619 + Three’s SIM-only charge of £25 x 24 months (12 month minimum contract) for unlimited calls, texts and data. Total cost over 24 months = £1,219.

2. iPhone 6 64GB supplied under 24-month contract by Three with £99 upfront cost + £50 x 24 months for unlimited calls, texts and data. Total cost over 24 months = £1,299.

The second subsidy method of purchase costs £80 more in total but it also ties you in for 24 months instead of only 12 months and the phone will be SIM-locked to Three, meaning that you can’t switch networks as easily or use local SIM cards abroad. And if a consumer can’t afford £619 upfront, then it would be cheaper to get a loan from Apple at 14.9% APR. It’s a similar story with other networks, but I picked Three because its web site is easier to navigate in order to look up the charges. Those who acquire their mobile phones from networks should think twice about the expensive disguised loan they are signing up to. It’s far better to buy a mobile phone outright in the same way as any other product, like a television or laptop.