Vodafone, EE and O2 have announced that millions of mobile phone customers will face inflationary mid-contract price hikes in the next couple of months. Here's what your rights are if you're affected – unfortunately if you're in your minimum term, you're unlikely to be able to quit your contract penalty-free.

EE is hiking some customers' monthly bills by 2.5% from Thursday 30 March, in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation figure announced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in January, while O2 will increase monthly charges by 2.6% in April, in line with the latest 2.6% RPI figure announced by the ONS today.

Vodafone told us some of its customers would see their bills rise on 12 April, in line with the RPI figure announced in March.

Rival network Three told us: "We haven't taken a decision on whether to apply RPI yet but we will let our customers know as soon as possible."

For ways to slash the cost of your phone bill, check out our 30+ Cheap Mobile Tips.

How EE's hiking prices

Here's the detail of the EE price hike:

  • Pay-monthly, Sim-only and mobile broadband customers whose current EE contract started on or after 26 March 2014 will see their monthly bill increase by 2.5% from 30 March.
  • Pay-as-you-go customers aren't affected by the price hike.
  • Anyone who joins EE or upgrades their current plan from Wednesday 1 March won't be affected by the RPI price rise this year, and will instead see their first increase in March 2018.

An EE spokesperson told us: "As the UK's biggest and fastest mobile network we work hard to offer our customers great value. Like many service providers, our pay-monthly plans increase by RPI annually. This year our customers will see a typical rise of less than 80p a month. We're currently contacting our customers to remind them this will take effect from 30 March 2017."

How O2's hiking prices

Here's the detail of the O2 price hike:

  • Pay-monthly and Sim-only customers, including those on O2 Refresh airtime plans and O2 Refresh family sharer plans, plus mobile broadband customers, will see their monthly bill increase by 2.6%, with the higher price applied from their April bill onwards.
  • Pay-as-you-go customers aren't affected by the price hike.

O2 told us: "We'll be adjusting our monthly tariff charges by 2.6% in line with the annual RPI change that applies to our contracts each year. We will contact customers next week to let them know the change will be reflected from their April bill. We'll continue to invest in our network and the services that matter to our customers while still offering great value for money."

How Vodafone's hiking prices

Here's the detail of the Vodafone price hike:

  • If you took out a pay-monthly or Sim-only mobile plan on or after 5 May 2016, or you took out a mobile broadband plan on or after 28 September 2016, you'll see your bills rise from April, in line with the RPI figure which will be announced in March.

  • Pay-as-you-go customers aren't affected by the price hike.

MoneySavingExpert.com is clarifying whether Sim-only customers are affected too and we'll update as soon as we know.

Can I leave my contract penalty-free?

Nobody enjoys being hit with a price rise, but unfortunately if you're within your contract's minimum term you're unlikely to be able to leave penalty-free. That's because EE and O2 contracts stipulate at sign-up that monthly costs may increase each year by up to the rate of the RPI.

Rules from regulator Ofcom state that customers can leave mobile, landline or broadband contracts penalty-free if a provider ups prices mid-term – but only where it hadn't warned you about the rise when you bought the contract, on or after 23 January 2014.

  • If you're a pay-monthly or Sim-only customer in your minimum term: EE says its contract gives it the right to annually increase the price you pay in line with the RPI, so customers seeking to leave while still in their minimum term could be hit by exit fees. O2 also told us those in their minimum terms would face fees if they seek to leave because of the RPI rise. Likewise, Vodafone told us it includes an annual rise in all pay-monthly contracts taken up on or after 5 May 2016 - or in the case of mobile broadband, all contracts taken out on or after 28 September 2016.
  • If you're outside your minimum term, or on a rolling 30-day Sim: You can leave penalty-free by contacting EE (call 150 from your EE mobile) or O2 (call 202 from your O2 mobile) – though you typically have to give 30 days' notice.

Remember if you're unhappy with the price hikes, it's still important to check rival providers' prices before quitting in anger as you may already be on the cheapest deal for your needs. See our 30+ Cheap Mobile Tips and Cheap Sim-only Deals guides for full help.