Phone and Internet Bills

We have all become so dependent on phones and internet, it is almost impossible to think about life without them.
If you are having difficulty paying your phone or internet bill, you have the right to ask your provider for hardship assistance.

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This page provides information about the steps you can take if you are experiencing financial hardship and struggling to pay your phone or internet bills.

There are various laws and guidelines that require telecommunications companies (telcos) to help customers experiencing financial hardship stay connected and manage their phone and internet bills.

So, if you are struggling to pay your bills, you should talk to your telco as soon as possible to discuss your options and take steps to get back on track.

At the bottom of this page, we explain what to do if you have received a disconnection notice or if you have already been disconnected.

If you complete the steps below and your problem still hasn’t been solved, or you are feeling overwhelmed, call us on 1800 007 007 to speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Steps to take if you’re struggling to pay a phone or internet bill


Work out what you can afford to pay

If you are struggling to pay your phone or internet bill, work out what you can afford to pay by doing a simple budget. See more information about How to work out what you can afford to pay.

If you can afford to pay something
Start paying the amount you can afford and get in touch with your phone or internet provider straight away to put a repayment agreement in place.

If you can’t afford to pay anything
Call us on 1800 007 007 for advice from a free and confidential financial counsellor.


Understand your options

If you tell your telco provider that you are in financial hardship and struggling to pay your bills, they must work with you and offer options to help meet your individual needs.

Options to help reduce your usage costs may include:

  • Spend controls
  • Restriction of specific services
  • Removing non-essential features at no cost
  • Changing to a pre-paid service
  • Transferring to a contract which includes hard caps
  • Low-cost interim plan options until you can resume original plan payments

Options to help with a suitable payment arrangement may include:

  • An affordable instalment payment plan for outstanding bills
  • Temporarily postponing, extending or deferring payments
  • Agreeing on an alternative arrangement, plan, or contract, including pre-paid services, that are more affordable
  • Discounting or waiving of the debt
  • Waiving late payment fees
  • Waiving cancellation fees
  • Offering a free non-automatic payment method
  • Incentives for making payments, for example payment matching.

Depending on your circumstances, your telco may offer a combination of these and other options to help with your financial hardship and keep you connected.


Contact your service provider

Your telco provider must contact you in writing after they become aware that you:

  • have more than two consecutive overdue bills;
  • have accrued three overdue bills in the previous six months; or
  • you have an overdue amount exceeding $200.

However, if you are experiencing financial hardship, we recommend you proactively reach out to your telco as soon as possible. The sooner you contact your telco, the better.

When you call them, ask to speak with the hardship department. This is a dedicated customer support team which specialises in helping people experiencing financial hardship. During the call:

  • Talk to them about your situation.
  • Explain what you can afford to pay and why.
  • Discuss what parts of your service you really need.
  • Ask about what hardship options and assistance they can offer you and how to apply.
  • Say if you need help with the application.
  • Ask when they will get back to you about your application.


  • Choose the type of assistance and payment plan that best suit your needs.
  • Only agree to an arrangement and payment you can afford.
  • Don’t agree to a short-term arrangement if you know you need assistance for a longer period.
  • Tell your provider if you have a serious medical condition and need your service as a priority.
  • Ask for a copy of what was agreed to be given to you in writing.
  • Change your bill payments from monthly to fortnightly. This will help make it is easier to stay on top of your bills and you can time the payments for when you have funds available.
  • If you need to hand back your device and cancel your plan, ask for cancellation fees not to be charged and any shortfall to be waived.


Get started with a letter or email template to request a hardship variation from your telco.


If you can’t agree, you can dispute it

If your telco is not being reasonable, and you cannot come to an agreement that you think is fair, you have a right to lodge a complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

  • The TIO is a free and independent dispute resolution service that will help resolve your complaint with your telco and reach a reasonable arrangement.
  • You can contact the TIO on 1800 062 058 to discuss your issue and lodge your complaint. Or you can lodge your complaint online with the TIO.
  • See our page on Dispute Resolution (Step 02) for more information.


Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help to deal with your financial hardship, you can speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent advice and assistance.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:00 am to 8.00 pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area – Find a local Financial Counsellor.


  • Do reach out to your telco provider as soon as possible if you are struggling to pay your bills.
  • Don’t use your credit card to pay your bills – this will only add to your debt
  • Don’t be tempted to go to a payday (fast loan) lender. You could end up further in debt and in even more financial difficulty. Instead speak to your creditor to ask for hardship.
  • Do think about a pre-paid phone plan to manage your phone costs.  ASIC’s MoneySmart website contains useful information about choosing a mobile phone plan.
  • Do watch this this Video from the Australian Communications and Media Authority for some helpful tips on how to make the most of your phone and internet plan.

What should I do if?

Can I be disconnected?

Disconnection should only be used as a last resort by your telco provider.

  • If you don’t pay your bills, and you don’t have a financial hardship arrangement in place or have not requested one, your telco can disconnect you. They must give you at least 5 working days written notice before they can disconnect your service.
  • If you are already on a financial hardship arrangement but you are unable to meet your obligations, then you should contact your telco as soon as possible. Your telco is required to discuss your options for payment before taking any further actions to disconnect you. If they do act, then your telco must give you at least 10 working days notice before they disconnect your service.

Your telco provider must tell you the following information in their disconnection notice:

  • The date of the planned disconnection
  • The reasons for their decision
  • Information about their financial hardship policy
  • How much you need to pay and how you can pay
  • Any ongoing or extra charges
  • The impact on any other services you have with them
  • They may pass or sell your unpaid debt to a debt collection agency
  • The debt may be listed on your credit report as a ‘non-payment default’
  • They may take legal action to recover the money you owe
  • Details of a contact point to make enquiries, including contact details for the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and free financial counselling services

If you are in financial hardship, contact your telco immediately and tell them you need help. They are required to work with you to help you manage your payments and keep you connected. If you do this, you may be able to stop being disconnected before the cut-off date.

What happens if I'm disconnected?

You usually must pay a reconnection fee as well as the outstanding debt to restore your service. If you are receiving Centrelink benefits, or can show other financial hardship, you can ask for the fee to be waived.

If you feel your provider has been unfair, or hasn’t fulfilled their disconnection requirements, you have a right to make a complaint to the free Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

What happens if my telco debt has gone to a debt collector?

Your telco provider must not send or sell your debt to a debt collector:

  • While you are still discussing options or have made an application for financial hardship assistance with them; or
  • When you have a financial hardship arrangement in place and you are meeting your obligations under this arrangement.

If your telco debt has been sent to a debt collector, you still have the right to request a financial hardship arrangement you can afford with that debt collector.

If the debt collector is not being reasonable, and you cannot come to an arrangement that you think is fair, you can lodge a complaint with the External Dispute Resolution Scheme they are a member of.

See our page on Debt Collection for more information.



If a salesperson approached you at your front door, over the phone or in a public place and convinced you to sign a contract, you may be able to cancel it.

You have rights under the Australian Consumer Law when a salesperson approaches you at your front door, over the phone or in a public place. These protections apply to sales methods that are called ‘unsolicited consumer agreements’.

If you were persuaded to sign a phone or internet contract under these circumstances, you may be able to cancel the contract:

  • 10 days no questions asked. If you change your mind or want to cancel the contract for any reason within the 10-business days “cooling-off” period that applies for all unsolicited consumer agreements entered into; or
  • Extended period. If the salesperson has breached your legal rights, you may be entitled to a longer ‘cooling-off” period of 3 or 6 months; or

If you have been misled by a high-pressure sales pitch that is not true, or they have falsely claimed the service would save you money, you can ask for the contract to be cancelled.  Remember to include cancellation fees from your old service provider when assessing your cancellation request.

If the service provider refuses to cancel the service, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) as soon as possible.

See the ACCC’s page on Telemarketing & door-to-door sales for more information about your rights.