Identify the problem
The shock of a phone bill much larger than you were expecting can bring stress and unwelcome financial pressure.
If you receive a surprisingly high phone bill, the first thing to do is look through your itemised bill and highlight any discrepancies.
Do the charges appear incorrect, or just higher than expected?
Have you bought extra services, dialled premium rate numbers, or been hit with roaming charges?
You should check with others in your household to see who may have accessed your phone or used it without permission and incurred the extra charges.
If the price of your contract has increased and you entered into it after 23 January 2014, you may be able to exit without penalty for any contractual price rise.
Talk to your provider
If you can't afford to pay your phone bill and need help making payment, talk to your provider.
You should try to agree how much you can afford to pay on an ongoing basis.
If you have a 12, 18 or 24 month contract, you will normally have to continue to pay monthly even if you're not using the service.
You could try asking if you can downgrade to a cheaper tariff. Some providers only allow this after you’ve had your phone for six months, while others don’t allow it at all - but it's worth asking.
You can also ask your provider to cap your mobile contract so your bill can’t go over a certain amount above your agreed tariff each month.
Find out more
Challenge your bill
Once you’ve identified what the issue is, contact your provider and explain that you're challenging your bill. Explain which charges you think are incorrect and why.
Keep a record of all correspondence, including dates and the names of anyone you speak to.
If your bill is especially large and you can't afford to pay it, your provider should agree to hold the additional charges during the dispute.
Make a written formal complaint
If your issue hasn’t been resolved, or you're unhappy with your provider's response, make a formal complaint.
The procedure for this should be outlined on the back of your paper bill or detailed on your provider’s website.
You’ll normally be required to make your complaint in writing and include a copy of your bill highlighting the disputed charges.
You can use our template letter if you wish to dispute your phone bill.
Use Alternative Dispute Resolution
If your mobile phone provider is unable to resolve your issue and you’re still convinced the charges are incorrect or unfair, ask for a deadlock letter.
This enables you to take your complaint to an ombudsman or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.
An ombudsmen or ADR scheme will act as an independent middleman to assess the argument from both sides and come up with a decision they deem to be fair.
If, after eight weeks from issuing your formal complaint, you still haven't heard from your provider, you can refer your complaint to an ombudsman directly without a deadlock letter.
To find out more, read our full guide to how to complain to the ombudsman about a mobile phone provider.