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Did you receive an SMS or mail from your carrier saying they are going to increase rates? How to terminate the contract with the operator without penalty

Bearing in mind that the fight against the current pandemic has had a strong impact on the income of many Portuguese, ANACOM has implemented some measures that oblige operators to accept contractual suspensions without any fees for loyal customers.

But did you know that apart from this occurrence, there are other cases in which the contract with the operator can be terminated without having to pay a fine?

The Portuguese market offer in terms of communication services is wide. Although only four operators dominate the panorama – Vodafone, MEO, NOS and Nowo – there is an infinite number of services (internet, mobile, landline, regular channels, premium channels …) and even packages (3P, 4P, 5P, with and without loyalty …).

For consumers, it can be difficult to choose which is best for them, and even more difficult when they already have a package, find another package that they consider to be better, and want to change and cannot do so because they are still within the loyalty period. It is 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 during which the customer is “obligated” to stay with the services of the respective operator.

In the Portuguese market, there are usually four options for consumers: a no-loyalty contract or a 6-, 12- or 24-month loyalty contract.

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 cases can the contract with the operator be terminated?
#1 – Use the right free res
First of all, in cases where a telecomm contract is entered into (by phone, online, or with a door-to-door salesperson), consumers have a period of 14 days – from the conclusion of the contract or the day it was verbally agreed – to cancel Services freely without any costs and without the need to give a reason to the operator. This is called the right of free decision.

But be careful:
You can only invoke this right and cancel the contract free of charge if it was concluded remotely, outside the physical trading premises of the operator.

If the operator does not inform the consumer, before signing the contract, of the existence of the right of free withdrawal and the conditions for its exercise, the period for termination of the contract with the operator will be extended to 12 months. But if the latter communicates in the meantime, the period goes back to those 14 days, and this time starts from the day the consumer received this information.

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To exercise this right, you must inform the operator officially (that is, in writing) within the specified period. Note also that, usually, there is a termination form that must be presented to you when you sign the contract. If you have been given this document, you must complete it and send it to the relevant operator.

Get a final draft
According to ANACOM, the entity responsible for overseeing compliance with these rules is the ASAE (Food and Economic Security Authority). Decree-Law No. 24/2014, of February 14, on consumer rights, clarifies the right to free termination of telecom contracts.

#2 – Non-compliance by the operator
If the operator does not provide part or all of the services with which the customer has contracted, the customer may terminate the contract with the respective operator without having to pay a fine, as this is a case of breach of contract.

Consumers may also be entitled to compensation if there is damage caused by non-compliance or if this possibility is provided for in the contract.

Also note that if the contract you have refers to a package (which includes several services – TV, internet, telephone, etc.) The full contract is more complex. In this case, what the consumer has to do is prove that without these services he would never have subscribed to this package.

According to this rule, it is possible to verify that, as reported at the end of July, customers affected by the tariff increase carried out by Portuguese operators in the past seven to nine months have the right to terminate the contract with an operator without penalty, even during the loyalty period.

Pursuant to Article 48, No. 16 of Law No. 15/2016 of June 17 (which strengthened the protection of consumers in contracts for the provision of electronic communication services with a loyalty period): whenever the company, on its own initiative, submits to the change in any of the contractual terms referred to in Paragraph 1, shall notify the subscribers of the proposed change in writing, in an appropriate manner, at least 30 days in advance, and shall at the same time inform the subscribers of their right to terminate the contract without any fee, in case of non-acceptance of the new terms, within the period specified in the contract, except in cases where The changes are proposed exclusively and objectively for the benefit of the subscribers.

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In this specific case, there was non-compliance because, as legally prescribed, consumers were not informed of this increase or of the possibility of terminating their contract for free.

#3 – Death
In the event of the death of the consumer, this situation must be reported to the operator upon presentation of the death certificate. Faced with an event like this, the contract ends and logically there is no reason to apply a penalty.
But note that the contract ends only from the moment the operator is informed of the death, in accordance with Article 1175 of the Civil Code.

#4 – Changing circumstances
Outside the aforementioned scenarios, the situations that justify the termination of the contract with the operator without penalty must be motivated by an abnormal change in the circumstances that prevent the consumer from continuing to fulfill the contract according to the terms that were agreed upon, namely:

unemployment of one or both spouses;
migration;
Address change.
If so, choose a new package
When faced with a request to terminate the contract with the operator, the latter will give you two answers: “No” or “Yes, but you will have to pay compensation.”

In any of these decisions, you should proceed with two steps. First, read the contract carefully and check if you are subject to any loyalty period. Next, understand what documents you need to collect for this and how far in advance your application should be submitted.

Secondly, inform the worker in writing. If the company responds negatively to the application for annulment, the first thing to do is to take advantage of Article 437 of the Civil Code which states:

“1. If an abnormal change occurs in the circumstances on which the two parties relied on the contract decision, the affected party has the right to terminate or amend the contract in accordance with fair provisions, provided that the request seriously affects the obligations it bears on the case in good faith and is not covered by the risks inherent in the contract .

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2. Once a dissolution has been requested, the opposing party may oppose the request, declaring that it accepts the modification of the contract in accordance with the terms of the previous number.

However, it is necessary that you submit an official request in writing, either by registered letter or by e-mail, requesting termination, explaining its reasons and providing evidence of the same reasons (in case of unemployment, it must be evidence of registration at the Employment Center; employment contract abroad In the case of immigration; in the case of a change of residence, a statement from the company in which you will work, etc.).

However, in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article above, the operator has the right to oppose your request and, accordingly, refuse to terminate without penalty or may offer you, as an alternative, a package with a reasonable price. .

Whatch out:
When signing a telecom contract, carefully read all points/paragraphs. From the moment you sign the document, you agree to all the terms contained therein.

Even before terminating the contract with the operator in writing, you are advised to contact the operator to try to negotiate the best solution for you.

Also note that if your order has been submitted correctly, the operator will have five working days to confirm receipt in writing and must inform you of the exact date on which the service will be cancelled.

What if I continue to receive bills after terminating the contract with the operator?
Invoicing can be associated with several factors, from missed notice days to associated amounts that are still missing. Check the date of stopping the service, given that the operator has six months, calculated from the date the service was provided to exercise the right to receive.

After this period, the debt to the operator expires, and you should contact them if you receive more than one invoice or if the amounts are not contracted.

In conclusion…
There are mainly four cases in which the contract with the operator can be terminated without penalty, i.e. without any costs to the customer and still within the loyalty period. If you encounter any of the circumstances listed, duly inform the operator, always in writing, or try to negotiate a better solution for yourself.