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Worried about paying your mobile phone bill?

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Mobile phone debt

When you set up a mobile, you buy a phone and sign up with a service provider. Your contract is for a set period of time, but there may be months when you cannot pay your bill.

Unpaid bills turn into debts called arrears.

It might be harder to pay if:

  • Your income drops during the contract term
  • Your living costs go up
  • You get a one-off bill that you had not planned for
  • The contract is not as easy to afford as you thought
  • There are hidden costs in the contract

What happens if I do not pay my mobile phone bill?

  1. Your account goes into arrears
  2. Your provider could cut off your phone
  3. Your account will default if you do not pay what you owe
  4. The missed payments and default are added to your credit file
  5. The provider can take action to get back what you owe

Find out more about the debt collection process.

Mobile phone bill arrears should be treated as a priority debt

This is because mobile phone companies can:

  • Disconnect the mobile phone
  • Pass on the debt to debt collectors
  • Issue a County Court judgment
  • Apply for you to go bankrupt
  • They can only do this if the amount you owe is more than £5,000
  • England, Wales and Northern Ireland only

Mobile phones and the Consumer Credit Act (CCA)

Check whether you signed two contracts when you got your phone.

Different contracts change how the debt is dealt with. You have different rights under the CCA.

  1. Contracts covering minutes, text and data usage: These are not CCA debts
  2. Contracts for the sale or loan of the device: These are CCA debts

Find out more about your rights and the Consumer Credit Act.

Money worries?

Find out how we can help you.

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I cannot pay my mobile phone bill. What can I do?

1. Speak to your network provider. They may be able to:

  • Change your bill date to a day that is easier to pay on
  • Move you from a monthly plan to pay-as-you-go
  • Move you onto a lower tariff monthly plan
  • Allow you some time to sort things out
  • Give you a short payment holiday

2. Make a budget

Make a list of:

  • All the money you have coming in
  • What you spend each month
  • Any debts you have

This helps you see:

  • What you can afford to pay
  • If you can save money anywhere

Read our guide to making a budget.

3. Get help if you cannot pay

Do not wait to get help.

Use our free online debt advice tool any time.

Get help now.

I do not think my mobile phone bill is fair, what can I do?

Speak to your provider. Ask them to:

  • Check your tariff
  • Explain any extra charges

Can I complain about the bill?

Ofcom monitors mobile phone companies. You can complain to them if you are not happy.

They need something in writing to back up your complaint.

Visit their website.

A debt collector is chasing me for mobile phone debt. What can I do?

Mobile phone debt often goes to a debt collection agency.

Do not ignore their letters.

Offer to pay what you owe at a rate you can afford.

These agents do not have any special powers.

Read our guide to dealing with debt collectors.

I made a complaint about the debt they are chasing. What should I do?

Tell them:

  1. You do not agree you owe this money
  2. You have complained to your provider
  3. They need to go back to the provider

Complain to Ofcom if you are unhappy with how the debt collection agency treats you.

What happens when I cancel my mobile phone contract?

  1. You may have to confirm in writing that you are cancelling
  2. You will need to repay anything you still owe
  3. You may be charged for leaving the contract early (this could work out cheaper than making payments for the rest of the contract)
  • Only pay what you can afford
  • You may be able to pay over a longer term once the service is cancelled

How can I pay less for my mobile phone contract?

There are a number of ways:

  • Tell your provider you found a better deal and see if they will match it
  • Cancel anything in your contract you do not use. Such as call minutes
  • Search for better deals. Comparison sites will help you find them
  • Use free services where you can. Make use of data and wifi hot spots

Cheaper mobile phones

SIM only deals

You get minutes, texts and mobile data but do not pay for a device.

  • Save money with a cheap handset
  • Find a shorter contract term
  • Easy to cancel if you want to


Buy credit in advance and only pay for what you use.

  • No long contracts
  • Switch providers any time
  • Only pay for minutes, texts and data

You need to buy or use a phone separately.

Review your allowances or tariff

Make sure your contract covers your texts, calls and mobile data.

Sometimes the network provider can cap your allowances. This stops you going over your usage limits.

Consider switching

There may be a cheaper deal out there.

Compare prices by looking at the comparison sites listed on the Ofcom website.

Help and advice with debts

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