COVID-19 Changes: The pandemic may mean there are more flexible repayment arrangements available for people in financial difficulty. There are also additional protections to stop disconnection. For more information see COVID-19 changes: utilities, telcos and rates
Steps to take if you’re struggling to pay a phone or internet bill
Work out what you can afford to pay
If you’re struggling to pay back money you owe, the first thing to do is to work out what you can actually afford to pay by doing a simple budget. 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 creditor straight away to put a repayment agreement in place.
If you can’t afford to pay anything
Call us on 1800 007 007 straight away for advice.
Contact your service provider
The sooner you contact your service provider, the better. They can make their services more affordable for you by offering options such as:
- Switching to a pre-paid mobile phone (and negotiating a reduction on any termination fee with a repayment arrangement if possible)
- Ask your telco about spend management tools available to help you manage your costs
- Changing your billing from monthly to fortnightly
- Offering an instalment payment plan for outstanding bills
- Allowing a delay on a payment
- Restricting your access to more costly services (access to emergency services and the service provider’s enquiry line can’t be restricted)
- Downgrading to a more affordable plan. Ask for the downgrade fee to be waived.
- Returning your mobile phone to be released from the contract (there may be a termination fee)
Ask to speak with the ‘hardship department’
If you feel the customer service department isn’t helping, or you are having long-term financial issues, ask to speak with the hardship department.
Be prepared before you contact them! Read about how to negotiate payment terms.
If you can’t agree, dispute it
If you can’t come to an agreement that you think is fair, you have a right to access a free dispute resolution scheme being the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. This free and independent service can review the way your telco handled your request for financial hardship and decide on a reasonable arrangement.
Speak to one of our financial counsellors
If your problem still hasn’t been solved, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, call us on 1800 007 007 to speak with one of our financial counsellors.
- 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
TIPS TO HELP CONTROL SPENDING
Been hit by a high mobile phone bill? Watch 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.
ASIC’s MoneySmart website also contains useful information about choosing a mobile phone plan.
What should I do if?
Can I be disconnected?
If you can’t pay your bill, your telco can only disconnect you until they’ve told you the following:
- That they plan to disconnect your service
- The earliest date of the planned disconnection (which must be 5 working days’ notice after the notice)
- That they may disconnect your service if you don’t pay
- About their financial hardship policy
- The debt may be passed or sold to a debt collection agency
- A default may be listed on your credit report
What happens if I'm disconnected?
- You usually have to pay a reconnection fee as well as the outstanding debt to restore your service. If you’re receiving Centrelink benefits, or are able to 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.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
ABOUT DOOR-TO-DOOR SALES
If a door-to-door representative convinced you to sign a contract in your home, you may be able to cancel it.
If a door-to-door representative persuaded you to sign a phone or internet contract in your home, you may be able to cancel the contract:
- During the 10-day “cooling off” period that applies for all contracts entered into in a home, or
- If you’ve been misled by a high-pressure sales pitch that’s not true or they’ve falsely claimed the service would save you money. Remember to include cancellation fees from your old service provider when assessing a ”discount”.
If the service provider refuses to cancel the service, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).