Mobile phone haggling

Do it right & save £100s each year

Anyone with a mobile contract that's about to end (or has ended) is wielding a serious MoneySaving weapon: loyalty. Unleashing it could save you £100s or bag you more minutes, texts and data. 

'We will make a saving of just under £400' – some inspiration before you begin

In our most recent haggling poll, 63% of mobile customers told us they were successful in negotiating a better deal, showing what's possible – see full poll results. Success rates with the big firms were 66% with Three, 74% with Sky Mobile and 72% with O2.

Haggling's more of an art than a science, so to really inspire you, here are some success stories we've heard (you can read others in the forum).

I was looking for a Sim-only deal as my £24/mth contract was due to run out. I saw a good deal in the weekly email, so I went armed with the info into my call with EE. After some negotiation I was offered 5GB, unltd calls & texts, 6 mths' Apple Music and BT Sport for, wait for it ... £7.99 a month – I bit her hand off!

- Suzanne, via email

Three wanted £12/mth and said that this was the best deal, despite being a loyal customer for 15 years. I mentioned I saw a similar Sim on your site for £6/mth. He seemed confused and not aware of the £6/mth deal. I emailed a copy of your quotes and he agreed to give me the £6/mth deal. Thank you. I always look out for your advice on email excellent.

- Graham, via email

Thank you for giving me a spur to check my mobile phone tariffs, across the year we will make a saving of just under £400

- David, via email

I had a very productive call with O2 where after asking for a PAC code I was offered a discount to £10/mth PLUS £150 credit towards my bill.

- Forumite Phillw

I was repeatedly overcharged by Vodafone, which took six months of calls and further issues to sort. I used this as leverage to get myself a 64GB iPhone 6s for £26/mth with no upfront cost, including 12 months' Spotify – 50% off the list price. Thank you to you and your team!!

- Rhys, via email

And a story from Martin...

This happened years ago now but the haggling technique works just as well today.

I was an Orange (now EE) customer and preferred to remain one, as the connection at home and work was good. Yet their packages weren't the market's cheapest.

This is an edited version of my call.

Martin: "Hi, you have a price match promise. Three offers 500 inclusive cross-network minutes, (ie, calling other networks) for £30/month, yet I'm paying that for just 200 minutes with you."

Orange: (as expected) "Sorry Mr Lewis, our price promise doesn't cover Three, so we can't offer you that tariff."

Martin: "That's simply not good enough. While I want to stick with you, unless you can offer me something better, I'm going to have to leave."

Orange: "Let me put you through to our specialist disconnections department and see if we can find any way to improve it."

Then I repeated my request to disconnections.

Orange 'disconnections': "I think we can help, we can match that Three tariff for the same price." (Note: Its own 400-minute package cost £50/month at the time.)

Martin: "That's not part of your normal price match plan?"

Orange disconnections: "Nope, it's a special offer for valued customers." (Sub-text: 'We'll pull out all the stops if we're going to lose you'.

After that I asked for more text messages and got a bundle on top, then a new phone and was asked: "What do you want? Pick any." So I opted for a snazzy, camera phone, with 3G (hi-tech at the time) – all, of course, at no extra charge.

While my story is about Orange and a few years old now, this works in exactly the same way with other networks today. There are no hard and fast rules, but a bit of chutzpah and a smile (try it, it's noticeable in your voice, even on the phone) works wonders. It's a game, with huge gains if you succeed and no loss if you fail.

How to haggle down your mobile costs

Just follow the three-step process...

Step 1: Ask for a better tariff

If you want to haggle, calling your network remains the best way to do it. Phone up and tell it you're unhappy with your existing tariff. There are two lines of argument you can pursue:

  • Research-based. You can quickly benchmark prices using our Cheap Mobile Finder tool. Put in your usage details to speedily reveal the cheapest tariffs and packages available. If you're not sure how much data you use, our data calculator can help.

  • Chutzpah-based. Alternatively, just have a go – call up and say "it's too expensive". Ask what the best tariff available is, then if the offer isn't good enough, say so. This can work well, as packages better than the best new customer versions, or special extra discounts are sometimes available if you push.

And always remember to request a better package and a phone upgrade too. If you're not given what you want, ask to leave.

Step 2: Speak to 'disconnections' - actually the customer retention department

The crucial part is getting through to what you think is the ‘disconnections department'. Actually, internally most companies refer to disconnections as a synonym for ‘customer retentions'. In other words, its real job is to keep your business and because of that it has much more power and discretion to do it.

Once connected, repeat your request – if you seem genuine about disconnecting (and why shouldn't you be? There are better packages out there), you should get a much improved offer matching the market's best openly available tariffs.

Our top tips to help you haggle:

  • Timing is crucial. Haggling works best when you're near or beyond the end of your contract. Even if you do forget, don't panic as telecoms and pay-TV companies are now forced to tell you that your contract is ending. This can be via a letter, email or text between 10 and 40 days before it ends.
  • Benchmark the best deal so you know what newbies are paying. It's important to have the factual arsenal at your fingertips before you pick up the phone, so do your homework.

    To help you research the best contract or Sim-only deals, you can use our Cheap Mobile Finder to compare over 50 retailers and resellers. The deals listed in our Cheap Mobile Finder are usually reserved for newbies, but we've heard providers can sometimes price match these for existing customers, but you have to contact your current provider to find out.
  • Use charm, chutzpah, cheek... and a smile. Aggression or anger will just put their back up and won't get you anywhere. You're asking for a discount, and they're just as much within their right not to give it as you are to leave. Aim for polite, friendly, non-combative yet firm.

  • Use the phrases that pay. You may find that your customer service rep will only offer a small discount at first, but if you don't agree with the price, try phrases like:
    - "I've worked out my budget, and my absolute max is £[insert price here]/mth."
    - "[EE/O2/Three/Vodafone] can do it for less."
    - "I need to think about it."
    - "My husband/wife won't be impressed if I pay that."
    - "It's still a lot of money."
    - "What's the very best you can do?"

  • Problems mean discounts. If you've had issues with your network in the past – for example, poor coverage or long waiting times on customer care calls – then politely tell them when you haggle. They should want to try and make it up to you.

  • Don't say yes to the first offer they give. You should never go with the first offer. Chances are, it's not the best deal they can do. Remember, be firm.

  • Don't fill the silence. They may push you to agree because it's a "limited-time offer", but don't feel pressured into agreeing to the new price or deal unless you're certain.

    As negotiations come to a close, a classic sales technique is to stay silent. They want you to feel awkward and fill the silence. Make them fill it with a cheaper offer.

  • Ask if they can throw in extras. If they won't slash the price, ask them if they can at least include any extras, such as free calls or Apple/Disney subscriptions.

Why customer retentions has such power

The vast majority of people now have mobiles, therefore networks no longer have to persuade them to get one – instead they have to get them to stay with their current network. The maturity of the market means retaining existing customers is vital – hence the power of customer retention departments.

It's not just mobiles you can haggle down though, there's a whole host of other things including car insurance, broadband and credit card interest rates. For more tips and tricks, read our Top 10 firms to haggle with guide.

Step 3: What to do if they say no...

DON'T feel forced into disconnecting. If you're pushing and your bluff is called with a "sorry, we can't do that, I'll arrange cancellation", just back off. A quick "I need to think about it and I'll call you back" is an easy way out.

And, of course, it's always possible that if you call again and speak to someone else, you may get a different response.

Yet, at this point if there are better deals elsewhere, consider taking on the hassle and changing package but do it on your terms not theirs. To help you quickly benchmark the best deals, you can use our Cheap Mobile Finder to compare more than 60 retailers and resellers. Also, for our top picks, see Best Sim only Deals or Best Pay-as-you-go Sim Deals if you're happy to keep your handset.

Here's how to switch provider and keep your phone number:

  1. You'll request a switching code by text. You'll send a text to one of two numbers, depending on whether you want to keep your existing number or not. You'll text 'PAC' to 65075 to keep your old number or 'STAC' to 75075 to get a new one.

    As well as texting, you'll also have the option to go online or ring your provider.

  2. Your existing provider will immediately send you the code. Its text must also include important info such as any exit penalties, outstanding handset costs or credit balances.

  3. You need to give the switching code to your new provider within 30 days. You'll then be switched within one working day. You won't need to contact your old provider again.

If you're not sure whether you are still 'in contract', and would have to pay any early termination charges, you can simply text 'INFO' to 85075 to find this out without requesting a switching code.

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