Problem Mobile Phone Bills

by - Last Updated on October 2, 2017

For nearly all of us, phone bills are a part of life. Whether you get them by email, through the post, or just have the money deducted from your bank account, you’re almost certainly paying a monthly fee for mobile phone service. For the most part, there are never any real problems with phone bills. But every now and again something might crop up. Perhaps there’s a mistake in your bill, perhaps you’re unable to pay the fees. Whatever your problem is, we’re here to help you solve it!

The Problem

The below advice will work for most mobile billing problems, but in particular, we’re looking at:

  • Bills that have unfair or mistaken charges
  • Bills that you simply can’t pay (meaning one, rogue bill that’s particularly high, but in the long term you’re generally able to pay your bills)
  • Bills that you can’t pay in the long term (meaning a contract that you’re locked into that you can no longer afford to pay in the long term)

The Essentials

Having a problem with your mobile bill can be frustrating and even embarrassing. However, there are some things that you need to keep in mind whatever your billing problem is:

  • Be civil and polite. You’re more likely to get help and a good outcome if you treat customer service reps with respect. After all, none of this is the fault of the representative at the end of the phone line.
  • For the most part mobile companies DO want to help you. It’s not to their benefit to have legal proceedings.
  • Most mobile companies are prepared to work with you to deal with billing issues, and most subscribe to the theory that some money is better than no money at all (meaning they tend to be quite helpful when it comes to instalment plans and the like).
  • Billing problems can happen to anyone. You’re not alone, and you certainly won’t be the first customer that’s called up with financial problems, so there’s no need to be embarrassed.
  • When dealing with problems make sure you keep records of EVERYTHING. That includes copies of letters, bills and emails as well as a record of the date, time and name of the customer service rep when any call takes place.

That covers the very basics, but now let’s get into more helpful detail.

Customer Service Contact

Whatever your problem is, your first step is going to be contacting customer service for your mobile operator. You will find contact information on the website of your chosen operator. However, for convenience, here are links to the major UK operators contact info:

Now you know how to contact your operator, but before you call, there are a few things that you’ll want to have at hand.

Necessary Papers and Documents

Before you make that call you need to make sure that you have all the information that you need to avoid needing to call back and start your explanation again. Here’s what you need:

  • Your mobile number
  • Any account names or passwords (if you have online mobile billing, for example)
  • A copy of your mobile contract (if you have one)
  • A copy of any bills that you want to dispute if applicable (it’s helpful to highlight charges that you don’t agree with so you can find them easily)

Making the Call

Making the call itself should be relatively straight forward. Call customer service and get to the billing department. Whatever your problem is, explain it briefly to the representative, and clearly state that you’d like to solve the problem as quickly as possible. The representative will then walk you through your operator’s process for solving your problem.

Unfair or Mistaken Charges

In the case of unfair or mistaken charges, you may find that the charges are immediately deleted from your account (which generally depends on how high those charges are). Some operators will require your request in writing. This is easy, just write a short letter explaining the problem and enclose a copy of your bill with the charges in question highlighted. The charges should be deleted shortly thereafter, or possibly the company will disagree and ask you to pay. If you are asked to pay and do not feel that you should then skip down to the paragraph entitled “dispute resolution.”

A Bill That Can’t Be Paid

In the case of a bill that can’t be paid most operators will negotiate with you and divide the bill up into instalments so that you can pay off the debt over the course of several months. This may be added to your existing phone bill. Rarely will charges be completely wiped from your account. In some cases operators will delete charges, but this is generally only in specific cases such as a child accidentally running up a large data bill, for example. However, an instalment plan is usually an affordable way to pay off the bill. In case you do not feel your problem has been satisfactorily solved, skip down to the paragraph entitled “dispute resolution.”

A Long Term Bill That Can’t Be Paid

If you are stuck in a contract that you find you can no longer afford in the long term most operators will be quite cooperative. The majority of operators will downgrade you to a smaller and cheaper phone plan if you plead financial problems. Some operators will require that you have had your contract for six months before they downgrade you, but your bill will go down eventually. If you still have several months of high charges to pay before you’re allowed to downgrade, an operator may let you pay the higher bills in instalments over a longer period if you request this. If you operator does not solve your problem fairly in your opinion, skip down to the paragraph entitled “dispute resolution.”

Dispute Resolution

For the most part the above should have solved your problem, or at least helped you out. However, there is a further process that you can go through should you feel that your operator has not treated your fairly or tried to help you in an appropriate way. This process is called “dispute resolution.” There are three steps:

Operator Dispute Resolution

Most operators have their own dispute resolution process that you must go through before taking the problem to an outside party. This process varies by operator, and you should be able to find details on your operator’s website. Here is some information regarding dispute resolution for major operators:

Be aware that this internal dispute resolution may take some time, in some cases up to three months.

A Letter of Deadlock

If the internal dispute resolution has still not solved your problem to your satisfaction after a reasonable amount of time, you need to move onto the next stage. This part is easy. Either contact the person who has been dealing with your internal dispute resolution or call your operator’s customer service line, explain what is happening and request a “Letter of Deadlock.” The operator will know exactly what you are asking for, so don’t worry. Once you have received this letter, or after a reasonable period of time without the letter appearing (2 to 3 weeks is standard) you are now ready to move on to step three.

Contacting the Ombudsman

You may now to the dispute resolution to an external ombudsman to help solve your problems. All UK operators are required to register with one of the two UK ombudsmen services for mobile problems. You’ll need to check out your operator’s website and find which ombudsmen service they’re registered with. You can then contact the appropriate ombudsman and follow their dispute resolution process (which you’ll find outlined on their website):

Be aware that this is the last stop, there is no further recourse and you may NOT dispute the conclusion of the ombudsman. They will NOT necessarily find in your favour, and if you are found to be at fault you may incur some additional fees. However, should they find in your favour your operator will be required to do as the ombudsman orders them.