Ask LH: Can I Cancel My Mobile Contract Because Of Bad Reception?

Ask LH: Can I Cancel My Mobile Contract Because Of Bad Reception?

Hi Lifehacker, I recently moved jobs to a Sydney skyscraper where the reception from an Optus-based carrier is less than stellar — I have no data connection most of the time, and phone calls often don’t come through. Colleagues on Telstra don’t have these issues. Is there some way I can get out of my post-paid contract without paying exorbitant fees and move to Telstra? Thanks, Phoneless

Skyscraper picture from Shutterstock

Dear Phoneless,

Our philosophy at Lifehacker is this: it never hurts to ask. Make a polite call to Optus and explain your situation. I suspect you might have more chance if you had reception issues at home, but again, you won’t know if you don’t ask.

The main constraint is likely to be if your contract includes a subsidised phone. In that context, there’s no way Optus is going to agree to end the deal with no termination fees. In that case, you’ll have to weigh up whether not being easily contacted at work (outside of the office Wi-Fi) is worth it.

If you can’t get out of the contract, you could also consider opting for a cheaper Telstra prepaid plan while continuing to pay off the phone. Good luck!


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  • As someone who has been through this, the TIO is your friend. They only require ONE complaint that was not addressed to a satisfactory condition (ie, they didn’t fix your reception or let you leave in this case) to get involved.

    Got out of my Optus contract, went to Telstra, never looked back!

    You will either have to pay out your contract at a reduced rate or hand back your phone.

  • I can offer some advice here as I got out of my contract with Optus about three months in as my home address was in a black spot. I explained to them over the phone (at the store, seems they cant do anything at an optus store except put you on the phone to their customer service, go figure)…that at the time of purchasing the contract I could not see that my area had a mobile black spot for their network and that if I had known i would not have purchased the service and product from them. I argued that it is basically being sold a service that then does not do what was promised after the fact. The bloke at Optus agreed with me and cancelled my contract. Also, of note, my home is 12kms from the Sydney CBD so it was not unreasonable to think I would have coverage.

    Later on I went with TPG which runs on the Optus network and have never had coverage problems so maybe they upgraded the coverage in the area….either way, was happy at Optus customer service that day even though it did take a bit of back and forth to get there. Always worth arguing your point if it is valid. Dont give up.

    • Having worked in telco, I can tell you there is a reason that people in stores aren’t allowed to release people from contracts, even if the person is with your company. A few reasons, in fact:
      1) When we see people in person, we are more likely to understand the issues they are having, believe them and cut off the contract, which isn’t what the company really wants.
      2) It helps to avoid real cases of fraud where family members and friends have their contracts cancelled to their benefit, for no reason except because they have the authority.

      There are probably quite a few more reasons, but these are things that I inferred while working in the industry.

  • OP is not with optus, but with some operator utilising optus, so optus won’t deal with him.

  • I suspect you might have more chance if you had reception issues at home

    I don’t understand this mentality on the part of the carriers. The whole point of a mobile phone is to be able to send and receive calls when you’re not at home!

    • That is correct but there is no company that can guarantee coverage everywhere you go. You will most likely find that the contract will only guarantee coverage at home.
      Is it the Telco’s responsibility to let someone out of there contract when they moved offices and now they don’t have coverage?

      As LH said, it can’t hurt to ask but the OP will probably have to pay out the handset in the best case scenario.

  • Agreed with dknigs… the TIO is your friend.

    I’ve used the TIO to resolve complaints with Virgin 5 years ago and Telstra this year. And just telling Optus that I was going to contact the TIO if they didn’t fix issue X immediately resulted in Optus fixing it and giving me a small credit on my bill.

    Going to the TIO works. Not always quickly — correcting that Telstra issue took 3 months from the date of my first contact with the TIO, and Telstra literally waited until the end of the expiration of the TIO-allowed 28 day window for resolving complaints before responding usefully — but always to my satisfaction.

    If I were you, I’d just tell your MVNO (Optus reseller) that you need to cancel your contract unless they can get Optus to fix the reception issue at the location you’re at for more than half your waking life during the week. If they say no, indicate that you’ll be taking the matter to the TIO and that you know it will contribute to the official count of TIO complaints against that carrier, which you would have thought they’d want to avoid, because some people decide which carrier to go with based on those statistics.

    If you’re lucky, they’ll just fix the problem. Because, really, the results that customers get when they go to the TIO aren’t a secret any more to staff at at least the managerial level at these carriers. They know if something goes to the TIO, and the customer can make a case that sounds at all reasonable, the TIO wants to see the issue resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. So just handling it before that point allows the carrier to cut their losses, rather than waste more time on a customer that they’ll be losing (or paying bill credits to, or switching to a lower cost plan, or whatever) anyway by the time the TIO gets through with them.

  • Had nearly the exact same problem with Optus as well. Super crap mobile reception at home, ok everywhere else. No sign of home address being in a black spot on their coverage maps but when I spoke to them on the phone, they acknowledged it was a black spot!

    They sent me their device (can’t remember what it’s called now…Home Zone I think) which hooks into your Wi-Fi and is meant to give you full strength reception on your mobile but no joy. Sent me another one, thinking the first one was stuffed…still no joy.

    Tried a new SIM card. No difference. I later spoke with a friend who works at Optus and she said just to tell them that you want to cancel the contract as they are not providing the service you signed up for.

    Rang Optus and they released me from the contract with no dramas at all.

    I’m now with TeleChoice who use Telstra towers and the quality of the voice calls is superb, as well as the mobile reception. I hate Telstra with a passion but at least this way I only deal with TeleChoice and not Telstra.

    • If you can get the Homezone device to work they are fantastic, i’ve been using one in my last 3 houses. Issues with them are pretty common though. Getting a new Netgear Nighthawk router fixed all my issues with it though.

      Btw – I work at optus – and I give these to heaps of customers (free when you’re on a plan)

      • The funny thing was that the Homezone devices both worked and I had full signal strength on my mobile. When I made phone calls, the quality was still crap and the person I rang couldn’t understand me most of the time and vice versa.
        The funny part.Now was when I was speaking to a lady at Customer Service and she kept saying she couldn’t hear me as the call quality was terrible. I was trying to tell her that’s the bloody reason I’m ringing you!!!

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