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Checking your ability to pay before selling you services

This guidance note tells you

This guidance note tells you how we handle complaints where you tell us your provider did not did not take reasonable steps to check whether you could pay for services or equipment before selling them to you.


We expect providers to provide post-paid services to you responsibly.

A “post-paid” service is a service you pay for after you use all or some of the service. For example, you might pay an access fee to use a mobile service in advance, but you pay all call and data charges after you use them.

You can also include a handset or tablet in a post paid plan that you pay off through regular repayments. Usually, these products have minimum term contracts of 12, 24 or 36 months.

Our view

Before offering you a post-paid service, providers should take reasonable steps to check whether you can afford the service.

A provider should:

  • If you have already have a service with the provider, check your payment history and number of services
  • Ask you about your income and employment
  • Ask for evidence of your income (such as a pay slip).

We expect you to provide accurate information to the provider. A provider should be able to rely on what you tell it to assess whether you can pay for a service.

What happens if your financial situation changes

If your ability to pay your bills changes after you start a contract (for example, you lose your job or become ill), you should tell your provider and ask it to consider providing hardship assistance. 

Possible outcomes

If your provider:

  • did not take reasonable steps to check whether you could pay for services or equipment before selling them to you, and
  • sold you services it should have known you could not pay for (either at all, or in full)

we could decide the provider should fix the problem by:

  • waiving some or all charges
  • changing the contract to one you can afford
  • cancelling the contract
  • giving you a payment arrangement.

If we decide a plan or contract should be cancelled, we would usually expect you to return any handset or other equipment to the provider.

More information

Ombudsman's proposed resolution: 2 October 2018

Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code 2019

Industry Guidance Note IGN 013: Sales practices and Credit and Debt management