/ Technology

No signal… why is it so difficult to cancel your contract?

Woman with cellular phone but no signal

Ever signed up to a new mobile phone contract just to find you’re without signal? Well, I bet it was difficult to get out. Thankfully, two major retailers have introduced a returns policy to help – should more follow?

Sure, perhaps only 3% of the UK’s population doesn’t have a mobile phone signal, but that doesn’t mean the remaining 97% is covered by every single network.

In fact, the Communications Consumer Panel last year found that over half of the mobile phone users it asked had suffered considerable problems with coverage.

So even if you don’t live in one of Ofcom’s so-called ‘not-spots’, it’s likely you’ve had a little trouble getting signal on your new phone. But when you try to get out of a contract due to rubbish signal it can feel like sticking needles in your eye.

Phone retailers introduce returns policies

Until now. Two major phone retailers, Phones4U and Carphone Warehouse, have announced that they’ll be introducing a 14-day returns policy for customers who suffer poor coverage. That should be enough time to check if your mobile works wherever you need it to.

Sure, you might say that people should look at each providers’ postcode checker to see if they’ll get a decent signal where they live, but these are just guides. Postcode checkers aren’t clever enough to account for blackspots caused by living in a basement flat, or at the bottom of a steep hill. Nor is it viable for people to check everywhere in their local area.

So it’s certainly good news that two retailers are making coverage returns policies standard, whether you buy your mobile online or in store. Our mobile phone industry expert Ceri Stanaway welcomes the move, but wants others to follow:

‘Like the Communications Consumer Panel, we’d like to see all mobile retailers and networks offering a 14-day coverage return policy as a minimum. Longer would be even better and it’s great to see that Virgin, the top performing mobile contract provider in Which? satisfaction surveys, still offers its 28 day, any reason returns policy.’

Returns inconsistencies still prevail

But there’s still too much inconsistency between retailers and networks, with contracts confusing us with their perplexing return terms. For instance, Orange simply relies on store managers to decide if a customer should get a refund due to poor coverage, as Which? Tech Daily points out.

And what if you move house during your contract to a location with weak signal? Only 3 will let its customers cancel contracts at any time due to poor coverage, no matter where they live.

So isn’t it about time all retailers and networks offered consistent and fair returns policies for poor network coverage? After all, what’s the use of owning a mobile if you can’t make calls or send texts?


We are in Aberdeenshire – and yes, we do have plumbed inside toilets! We have always had difficulty getting mobile coverage in our house and have been condescendingly informed it is because we live in a 200 year old granite house – apparently the walls are too thick! On other occasions we have been advised that we need a mobile phone with a better antenna – sorry, tried most and it doesn’t make that much difference! Even using state of the art hands-free in our cars doesn’t always give good reception on our premises and these have a boosted aeriel so should maintain better signal.
We have never tried to return a mobile handset due to poor coverage but I can envisage the response we would be likely to get! Really this topic is an off shoot of the very recent item concerning mobile network coverage which in my opinion throughout the UK can be pretty poor.
I have worked on various showgrounds – Stafford, Three Counties, Builth Wells etc. and found that mobile coverage can be very hit or miss. This is no fun or use to traders trying to authorise card payments as the card readers have little or no signal. If the signal is weak and takes a long time to connect, they are presented with the scenario of customers cards being ‘declined’. This is usually from a poor or slow signal rather than an actual lack of funds.
The whole mobile network really does need to get its act together!