How To Get Out Of A Cable Or Satellite TV Contract

How To Get Out Of A Cable Or Satellite TV Contract

Written by Chrissy Kapralos
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated July 15, 2021

Many of us have been frustrated with our cable or satellite TV providers in the past. Whether it’s an inconsistent connection, unusual extra charges, an expensive monthly bill, or a preference for apps like Netflix, there are many reasons to break a tv contract. 

Before getting started, it’s important to recognize the reasons you have for cancelling, as that may shape your next actions. For example, if you’re unhappy with the price, perhaps you could try renegotiating instead. Or if you simply want to have a simpler lifestyle or a more affordable monthly budget without tv, cancelling might be a better option. 

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Things You Should Do Before Cancelling Your Contract 

Before you call your cable or satellite TV service provider to cancel your contract, consider taking the following steps first:

Understand Your Contract 

Make sure you understand the terms of your contract before cancelling. Take some time to read the fine print so that you’re well informed about the provisions for cancelling. It’s very possible that the contract will outline harsh fees and penalties that will result if you break your contract. Your end goal in reading your contract is to find out:

  • If you received the services that were promised
  • The fees the company charges upon cancellation
  • If the fees are prorated (fees that increase for each remaining month of your contract), or a one-time set amount.

Determine The Cancellation Fees

If early termination fees apply, find out exactly what they are. This will tell you what you can expect on your final bill if you can’t get the service provider to agree with a fee-free cancellation. 

Find Out If The Cancellation Fees Will Be Prorated

If early termination fees are prorated based on the amount of time that the agreement is in effect, the fee could increase for every month that is left on your contract. 

Do The Math

Crunch the numbers to compare how much the cancellation fees would be and how much you would still have to pay to ride out the rest of the contract. If the cancellation fees turn out to be more than what you would pay to carry out the length of your contract, it would make little sense to back out early. Instead, you may find it more cost-effective to let the contract expire. 

Determine If You Were Provided Services As Per The Agreement

If you can verify that you were not provided with the services as dictated in the contract, you may have a stronger leg to stand on when negotiating with your service provider. 

For instance, if certain channels were blocked that you are paying for, or your satellite was out for extended periods of time, you may be able to show that the service provider did not uphold their end of the bargain. You therefore may be in a better position to get out of your contract early without penalty.

Ways to Cancel Your Cable or Satellite TV Contract

There are a few ways to go about cancelling your cable/satellite TV contract. 

Simple Cancel

If you know wholeheartedly that you do not want to continue the service, and there is nothing the company can offer you to encourage you to stick with the contract, a simple cancellation is your best option. In this scenario, you will agree to pay the fees outlined in the cancellation provisions of the contract. Make sure that the fees do not exceed the amount it would cost to simply continue the rest of the contract. 

Keep Record Of Any Service Problems 

If you are cancelling because of service problems that occurred in the duration of your contract, you may be eligible to cancel your contract without penalty. To do this, ensure you record each instance of service problems (bad connection, white noise, improper billing, etc.) For each instance, make sure to record the following:

  • date and time of problem
  • the type of problem
  • how the company failed to rectify the issue 

If you manage to keep accurate records of service problems, it is likely that you can get out of your contract without penalty. 

Want to learn more about getting out of your phone contract early?

Buyout Options

Some companies will offer to buy you out of your current contract in return for switching to their service. For example, a company may agree to pay your early termination fees in exchange for you switching to their service. This may be a good option for you if you are unhappy with your current provider, but don’t want to stop using a television service completely. 

Take It To Small Claims Court

If you have called your provider and feel you have been treated unfairly, or that the issues weren’t properly addressed by them, it might be worth making a claim in small claims court. You can dispute a fee that the provider has charged you in small claims court to avoid having the fee being sent to a collections agency, which can affect your credit. Sometimes, a company might default judgement on a claim in your favour; this would be the best scenario. Otherwise, companies will send a lawyer to represent them in court. 

Who Do You Contact To Cancel Your TV Contract?

ServiceCustomer Service Number 
Bell Satellite TV service1-888-759-3474
Videotron illico TV1-877-512-0911
AT&T DirectTV1-314-925-6925
Sky Choice1-855-759-5665
Dish Satellite TV1-877-872-4155
Shaw Direct Satellite TV1-888-554-7827

Disclaimer: Fees may vary according to the type of product or service and contract terms. 

How Much Are Early Termination Fees (ETF)? 

Early Termination Fees (ETF) are the fees associated with cancelling your satellite contract before the agreed-upon end date. These fees change depending on a variety of factors, including the provider, product, amount of time left in the contract, etc. Let’s take a look at Bell’s termination fees as an example.

Bell’s ETF terms vary depending on the contract term:

  • For subscribers on a 2-year term. You will be charged $150 if you cancel within the first 12 months of your contract. If you cancel within the 13th and 24th month, you will be charged $75. 
  • For subscribers on a 1-year term. You will be charged 75$ if you cancel anytime before the end of the contract. 

Want to cancel your gym membership? Learn how here.

What Happens When You Cancel Your Contract? 

Now that you have decided to cancel your contract, follow these three steps to cancel as smoothly as possible. 

Call Customer Service

It is important to remain calm and polite when discussing your contract and cancellation with a service representative. Just like you, the person on the other line has feelings and emotions, and like any business interaction, you want to make sure you are professional and kind. Try to voice your concerns in a calm manner, using lines like:

  • According to my contract, I was supposed to pay x amount per month.
  • I am no longer able to afford this package. Could you recommend a cheaper one?
  • Our satellite has been either off or inconsistent for the past few days. Is there anything you can do to rectify this?
  • I’m not satisfied with the channel selection in our package anymore. I’d like to renegotiate the price of my package. 

Remember to always be patient and courteous. Say thank you when necessary and avoid losing your temper. 

Cancel or Negotiate

Many customer service representatives have their own internal incentives to keep a client on a contract. You can use this to your advantage and try to negotiate a better deal if you’d like. If not, you could opt for a simple cancel and pay the associated fees, or negotiate a cancellation without penalty if you have recorded service problems.  

Return Equipment

Upon cancelling a service, you want to make sure you return all satellite equipment to your provider to avoid paying any fees. This often includes even removing the satellite dish from your roof yourself, if applicable. 

Bottom Line 

Cancelling your TV contract doesn’t need to be difficult. Remember to stay calm in all your communications with your service provider, keep accurate records, and explore the many options you have in terms of buyouts, cancellations, and renegotiation. 

Rating of 5/5 based on 2 votes.

Chrissy is a Toronto-based communications advisor. With an English degree from the University of Toronto and editing courses under her belt from Ryerson University, she has continued her lifelong passion for writing and editing. In addition to working for Loans Canada on a variety of financial topics, Chrissy has a few years of resume writing and editing under her belt, and takes great pleasure in helping people find work that fits with their experience and passions. When she isn't working, you can find her practicing yoga, hanging out with her dog, reading up on financial and real estate news, or planning her next trip abroad.

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