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Difficulties with your telco bill – what to do about it and how we can help

Are you or someone you know struggling to pay a telco bill? Have you been overcharged for your telco services? Maybe you had a payment plan that you can no longer follow, and your telco has cut off your phone and internet. Or perhaps you’ve been charged for a service you didn’t agree to.

These are all common complaints made to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). In the last financial year, roughly one in three complaints we received was about a problem with a bill. In real terms, that’s over 39,000 complaints in one year.

One of these complaints was made by Steve*. He had trouble paying his bills which led to a range of issues with his telco.

Steve had multiple mobile and tablet services with Graphite Mobile*, which he gave to his family to use. When Steve fell behind on his payments, Graphite Mobile restricted and later cancelled all of his services. Between the unpaid bills and cancellation fees, Steve owed over $5,000 to Graphite Mobile.

Steve contacted Graphite Mobile to ask for a low-cost payment plan. Graphite Mobile declined his request and instead asked Steve to pay back the entire $5,000 within a year. Steve’s options were limited so he accepted this payment arrangement.

However, several months into this payment arrangement with Graphite Mobile, Steve’s family lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve was concerned he would be unable to pay back the full $5,000, so he tried to contact Graphite Mobile for help. Graphite Mobile did not return his calls, which discouraged Steve from trying to get additional help.

Before the deadline for payment of the $5,000 passed, Steve called Graphite Mobile again. Instead of negotiating a new payment arrangement, Graphite Mobile told Steve his account had already gone to a debt collection agency.

At this point Steve made a complaint with the TIO. With our help, Steve and Graphite Mobile reached an agreement. Steve agreed to return his mobile handsets, and Graphite Mobile agreed to remove $2,500 in outstanding fees. Graphite Mobile then worked with Steve to find a flexible arrangement to pay off the remaining amounts.

If you’re struggling to pay a bill, some of the problems that we can help with include:

  • requesting financial hardship assistance from your telco
  • finding your telco’s financial hardship policy
  • negotiating or renegotiating about a payment arrangement with your telco

If you notice an incorrect or unexpected charge on your bill and you’ve tried to resolve it with your telco, we might be able to help. We can take complaints about:

  • being charged at different rates or for different services than you agreed to
  • high administrative or miscellaneous fees
  • charges for excess usage
  • charges for unauthorised usage by a third party.
  • direct debits taken without notice or authorisation, on the wrong date, or for the wrong amount
  • telcos trying repeatedly to take a direct debit after the first attempt fails
  • payments that are missing or applied incorrectly
  • telcos charging a fee for certain ways of paying bills

More information about getting your money back and how to stop direct debits and reverse charges is available here.

*All names have been changed.