I’m Struggling To Pay My Mobile Phone Bill – What Should I Do?
Firstly, don’t panic. In today’s financial climate, you’re definitely not alone. Mobile phone bills can be a huge drain on a monthly income, and if you signed up for a contract and suddenly find yourself out of work, for example, then mobile bills aren’t exactly your priority. On the other hand, you can’t ignore the problem, so you’ve already taken a great first step by recognising the problem and asking for advice.
What We’re Trying to Avoid…
We don’t want to paint a bleak picture, but it’s important that you know what the theoretical consequences of not paying your mobile bill are (we’ll get to how to solve the problem in a second). If you miss a monthly payment then next month you’ll get a bill for two month’s payment plus a penalty fee for missing the first month. That situation will repeat the next month and the next until you end up owing a very healthy amount. And if you’re paying by direct debit and the payment bounces you could end up owing an additional penalty fee to your bank too.
All of this can add up exceptionally quickly and spiral out of control. Your operator may cut off service to your phone (though if you’re on a contract you’ll still need to pay a monthly payment even if you don’t have service). You end up with debt collectors knocking on your door, facing legal action, and with a black mark on your credit record (which could make getting another mobile contract in the future tough).
Right, let’s take a deep breath. That is what could happen, but if you handle the situation correctly, it won’t. Mobile operators are generally relatively reasonable about negotiating payment plans, after all, it’s better for them to get some money than no money, so here’s what you need to do.
Take a Look at Your Finances
Your first step should be to take a close look at your finances. You missed one payment. Is that because you’ve had an especially tough month? If so, can you feasibly pay the bill next month? If you can, then you may want to consider sitting on the problem and just paying both bills next month. But be very careful in making this decision- you have to be absolutely certain that you can make both payments in the next month.
Assuming that this is a more constant problem and that it’s a true struggle to pay the monthly payment that you’ve signed up for, then you need to again look at your finances and work out how much you can reasonably pay per month for your mobile services. Again, be realistic!
Talk to Your Operator
Once you know how much you can afford, take a second to have a quick look at the terms and conditions of your contract to find out what your operator’s policy is about late payment. It’s best to know where you stand before contacting your operator, after all.
Now, you’re going to call your operator’s customer service line (or billing number, if they have one) and start explaining the problem. Showing that you’re proactive will make your operator more likely to negotiate with you (better to make a good first impression, right?) and once you address the problem, your operator is obliged to discuss things and try to work things out with you. Trust us, it’s in everyone’s best interests to get the matter resolved.
What Will Happen?
Most probably you will be given a repayment plan. You need to discuss with your operator how much you can reasonably afford each week or each month to pay back your debt (again, again, be realistic, don’t commit to more than you can afford). You may or may not get your mobile service switched back on again if you’ve been cut off.
If you’re on a contract, you’re technically obliged to keep paying until that contract has ended. But you can ask your operator to downgrade your contract to a smaller one (which will be more affordable). Some operators don’t allow this, some will charge you a fee for changing your contract, and others will be happy to help you. There’s no harm in asking though!
Consider Your Other Options
In terms of the future, you might want to consider a switch to pay as you go or SIM Only on a 30-day pre-paid rolling contract. That way you won’t be stuck in a contract that you might not be able to afford every month. You’ll have the phone service you need, and no monthly bill, which could be a good thing if your finances are a little wobbly at the moment. You might also want to consider selling your existing phone and using that to fund the contractual payments.
Getting stuck in a debt sink with your mobile contract is in no one’s best interests. These situations happen, but if you stand up and start dealing with the problem instead of burying your head in the sand, you’ll probably find that your mobile operator is more than happy to help you out and come to an arrangement that suits everyone.
Photo via Visual hunt.