Have you received a text message or email from your telecom operator stating that he is going to raise prices? How to terminate the contract with the operator without penalty

 Have you received a text message or email from your telecom operator stating that he is going to raise prices?  How to terminate the contract with the operator without penalty

Considering that the fight against the current pandemic has had a major impact on the income of many Portuguese, ANACOM has implemented certain measures that require operators to accept contractual suspensions without any cost to loyal customers.

But did you know that in addition to this event, there are other situations in which it is possible to terminate the contract with the carrier without having to pay a penalty?

The range of telecommunication services on the Portuguese market is enormous. Although there are only four operators that dominate the panorama – Vodafone, MEO, NOS and Nowo – there is an infinite number of services (Internet, mobile telephony, fixed line, normal channels and premium channels…) and even packages (3P, 4P, 5P, with and without loyalty…).

It can get complicated for consumers to choose which one is best for them, and even more difficult when they already have a package, find another they like better, want to change it and can’t do so because they are still within the loyalty period. It is precisely here that the need to terminate the contract with the operator may arise.

What does the loyalty period consist of?
loyalty period
It is about the duration of the contract in which the customer is “obliged” to stay with the services of the operator in question.

In the Portuguese market, there are normally four options for consumers: a contract without loyalty or a loyalty contract of 6, 12 or 24 months.

For those who are loyal, if they want to terminate the contract, it is usually necessary to pay compensation to the operator. But this is not always mandatory.

In what situations can the contract with the operator be terminated?
#1 – Using the right to free resolution
Firstly, in cases where the telecommunication contract has been concluded at a distance (by telephone, via the Internet or with a door-to-door seller), the consumer has a period of 14 days, counting from the conclusion of the contract or the day it was verbally agreed – to cancel services free of charge and without giving any reason. This is called the right of free resolution.

But be careful:
You can only invoke this right and revoke the contract free of charge if it has been concluded at a distance, outside the physical commercial space of the entrepreneur.

If the entrepreneur has not informed the consumer about the existence of the right of withdrawal and the conditions for exercising it before signing the agreement, the term for terminating the agreement with the entrepreneur is extended to 12 months. But if the latter communicates in the meantime, the period will revert to those 14 days, this time counting from the day on which the consumer received this information.

To exercise this right, you must formally (ie in writing) notify the operator within the specified time period. Also keep in mind that there is normally a termination form that must be handed to you when you sign the contract. If you have received this document, you must complete it and send it to the relevant operator.

Get termination draft
The entity responsible for monitoring compliance with these rules, according to ANACOM, is the ASAE (Food and Economic Security Authority). Decree-Law No. 24/2014 of February 14 on consumer rights explains the right to termination without charge in telecommunications contracts.

#2 – Non-compliance by the operator
If the operator does not provide part or all of the services contracted by the customer, the customer can terminate the contract with the operator concerned without having to pay a penalty, as this is a breach of contract situation.

Consumers may also be entitled to compensation if damage arises as a result of such non-compliance or if the contract provides for this possibility.

Also note that, if the contract you have refers to a package (which includes several services – television, internet, telephone and the like) and if the operator’s non-compliance is stipulated in only one or two services of that package ( partial non-compliance), the complete cancellation of the contract may become more complex. In this case, the consumer must demonstrate that he would never have subscribed to that package without such services.

Under this rule, it is possible to verify whether, as reported at the end of July, customers affected by the increase in tariffs by Portuguese operators over the past seven to nine months have the right to cancel the contract with the operator without penalty , even within the loyalty period.

Pursuant to Article 48, No. 16 of Law No. 15/2016 of June 17 (which strengthened consumer protection in contracts for the provision of electronic communications services with a loyalty period): Whenever the company changes on its own initiative a of the contract terms referred to in paragraph 1, shall give subscribers at least 30 days’ notice in writing by appropriate means of the proposed amendment and at the same time inform subscribers of their right to terminate the contract free of charge, in case of non-acceptance of the new terms and conditions, within the period specified in the contract, except in cases where the changes are proposed exclusively and objectively for the benefit of subscribers.

In this specific case, there was non-compliance because, as established by law, consumers were not informed of this increase or of the possibility to cancel their contract free of charge.

#3 – Dead
In the event of the death of a consumer, this situation must be communicated to the operator upon presentation of a death certificate. In such an event, the contract expires and it is logical that there is no reason to impose a penalty.
Note, however, that the contract only expires from the moment the death is communicated to the operator, in accordance with article 1175 of the Civil Code.

#4 – Changing circumstances
Outside the aforementioned scenarios, situations that justify a free termination of the contract with the entrepreneur must be prompted by an abnormal change of circumstances that prevents the consumer from continuing to perform the contract according to the conditions in which it was agreed, namely:

Unemployment of one or both members of a couple;
Address change.
Then choose a new package
Faced with a request to terminate the contract with the operator, it will give you two answers: “no” or “yes, but you must pay compensation”.

Each of these decisions requires you to proceed with two steps. First read the contract carefully and check whether a loyalty period applies to you. Then understand what documents you need to collect for this and how far in advance you need to place your order.

Second, notify the operator in writing. If the company rejects the request for annulment, Article 437 of the Civil Code must first be invoked, which stipulates:

“1. If the circumstances in which the parties made the decision to conclude an agreement have undergone an abnormal change, the injured party shall have the right to terminate the agreement or to modify it in its reasonable opinion, provided that the demand for the its obligations has serious consequences for the principles of good faith and is not covered by the risks inherent in the contract.

2. Once a solution is requested, the counterparty may oppose the request and declare that it accepts the amendment of the contract under the terms of the previous issue”.

However, it is necessary that you submit a formal written request, either by registered letter or by e-mail, requesting termination, explaining the reasons for it and providing proof of those same reasons (in case of unemployment, it must be proof of registration are). at the Center of Employment; an employment contract abroad in case of emigration; if you change your place of residence, a statement from the company where you will be working, etc.).

Nevertheless, and in accordance with paragraph 2 of the article above, the operator has the right to oppose your request and therefore refuse to cancel without penalty or even offer you as an alternative a package that has a more affordable price .

Pay attention:
When signing a telecommunications contract, carefully read all points/paragraphs. From the moment you sign the document, you agree to all the terms and conditions contained therein.

Also before terminating the contract with the operator in writing, it is advisable to contact the operator to try to find the best solution for you.

Please also note that if your request is submitted correctly, the operator will have five business days to acknowledge receipt in writing and inform you of the specific date the service will be cancelled.

What if I continue to receive invoices after termination of the contract with the operator?
Sending invoices can be due to multiple factors, from missed cancellation days to corresponding still missing amounts. Check the date of deactivation of the service, as the operator has six months from the date of provision of the service to exercise the right to receive.

After this period, the debt to the operator expires and you must contact them if you receive more than one invoice or if the amounts do not match the agreement.

There are roughly four situations in which it is possible to cancel the contract with the operator without penalty, i.e. without costs for the customer and still within the loyalty period. If you are faced with any of the conditions listed, inform the operator properly, always in writing, or try to find a better solution yourself.