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Don’t Pay Mobile Phone Bills With Excess Charges

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Don’t Pay Mobile Phone Bills With Excess Charges

7th April by

Have you ever had an exorbitant bill from your mobile phone provider? Whether you’re with Telstra, Optus, Virgin, Vodafone, or Three; in most cases you can have excess usage charges waived. The reason I write this post is that over the past 6 months I have saved friends and family members from paying well over $7,000 in excess mobile phone charges.

Although you have an obligation as a consumer to understand your contract, telcos still must provide correct (and clear) communication with what you can, and can’t do within your contract.

The false safety net of a cap

I have mixed feelings about caps. When mobile phone caps first came to Australia, I was extremely excited by the idea. ‘So, I pay you $49 a month, and you give me $300 worth of calls?! This is amazing’. The problem is, calls are expensive and this disconnect between how much you PAY and how much you RECEIVE is breeding a system where bills are hard to understand and consumers are rarely looking at them. This combination is perfect for the telcos. This false sense of security encourages people to use their phones more, and in a lot of cases, cause excess usage charges.

Your bill’s total should be the amount of your cap

If you ever receive a bill where the amount doesn’t equal your cap — query it. If your cap is $49 a month, and you get a bill for $75, you should look into what these charges are. Did you go over your data allowance or was it phone calls to ineligible numbers (like 13 numbers)? By finding out the issues when they are small, you can take action to avoid larger bills.

Don’t use direct debit

The best way to lose control of your money is by allowing direct debit from your account. Although it’s the ‘easiest’ option, there are a couple of things built into direct debit to promote failure in managing your bills. With direct debit you aren’t actively seeing the amount you are paying to the telco company. If you Bpay however, you are actively typing the total amount to pay it. This makes you hyper aware of how much your bills are costing. If your bill is wrong (in your eyes), and you are using direct debit, they will still take the money out of your bank account. It is a lot easier to get back money that they haven’t yet taken, than money they have.

Getting out of a large mobile phone bills

The reality is, that no-one sets out to have a huge phone bill. So why do people go over their cap? Most of the time, it comes down to the user not understanding how much their ‘$300’ will actually get them in calls. Other users are just on the wrong cap to begin with.

The easiest way to get out of a phone bill is to upgrade to a different cap.

When calling telcos, the person on the other end generally wants to sell you something. In this case, you can use this desire to your advantage. If you went over your cap by a mile, you aren’t on the right cap. Tell the operator that you didn’t understand your original cap. Normally, it helps if you can pinpoint the issue. Be specific. “I thought I received unlimited text messages”, “I thought I received free calls to other Telstra phones”. As the original sales person didn’t properly communicate to you what you could, and couldn’t do with the cap, you are happy to upgrade to the next cap, as long as you can have the full amount of excess charges waived. Most operators will offer a portion of the excess amount as credit — this is always going to be their first approach. Don’t accept it. Explain that you want the full amount credited.

Did you go over your data allowance? Here are some tips.

The easiest way to get data fees waived is to say that you didn’t receive any notification that you went over. “I was told by the salesperson that I would receive a text message when I hit 80% of my usage”. Be willing to learn from the mistake “If I don’t receive a text, that’s fine, i’ll check my dashboard in the future, but this time, I shouldn’t have to pay”.

Put your persuasive hat on

Always be polite and professional. The most effective way to persuade the operator to waive charges is by telling a story. A story about the salesperson’s promises, or the fact that the telco website wouldn’t let you login to check your balance.

Ask for a reference number & the details

You have put in a decent amount of work talking to the operator, sometimes it can be upwards of an hour. I have saved over $1,800 on one phone call. Getting a bill from $1,900 to just $100. Don’t let all that work go down the drain. Ask for a reference number, you may need to follow up with the telco again down the track.

Before ending the call, ask for the details. When will my bill now be due? How much will it be next month?

Don’t hand over your hard earned cash to the big telcos. Make the phone call and get your excess fees waived. They won’t keep doing this for your account, so make sure to get on the right cap to avoid future problems!

Make a Comment/ but be nice!

  • James

    I think the advice here should be, avoid large bills in the first place and always keep a close eye on usage for the first couple of months. Also, new laws will see the term “Cap” abolished. 

    • joshjanssen

      Thanks for the comment, James. Exactly, the ideal situation is to avoid the large bill in the first place, but for many people, it’s too late! As I mention at the end of the post, the telco will normally only give a credit once, so the aim of the game is to avoid the large bills.

  • http://www.tnmg-designs.com.au/ Tristan Nyhuis

    Very helpful. I usually get bills that are 200-300 over my 79 cap. It’s be good having more money in my pocket. 

    • joshjanssen

      Thanks for the comment, Tristan! It’s sometimes worth upping the cap (in your case $89) and not going over, than getting the shock 200-300 bills! Hope all is well! 

      • TristanNyhuis

        Yeah think I might. Thanks for the advice :)

  • http://twitter.com/chrisheywood Chris Heywood

    Usage meters are also handy. Telstra lets you set up SMS alerts when you hit 80%+ of your data and calls. I use an app called Consume that does a good job monitoring consumption.

    The only problem with the alerts is Telstra does that weird pro-rataing on the first month, which makes it seem you’ve used more than you have. It’s a shit system, literally a lotto wheel that randomly picks your bill date. Bizarre.

    Another bit of advice: never ever trust your phone’s inbuilt usage meter.

    Not that I’ve looked into it, but I imagine the iOS5 iMessage with its ‘free’ messages from iPhone to iPhone is rife for underhanded telco tactics.

  • Ktnunn

    I am in trouble. I use my mobile phone through my computer. I conected to itunes and it started instantly down loading. Anyway I have 6 month left on my $59 cap. I just got a bill for $1000 ($942 for going just 6GB over my data), the bil has not arrived yet I will try your ideas, but so far they were not that helpful. The data alert they use did not tell me to 2 days later when my new billing period started. I am so screwed. Plus I guess I could go with no one told me about the charges when I go over, they are extream.

  • Ktnunn

    Quick update. Not perfect but saved $470. Just woundering if there is anything else I could do. I ofered to go up packages if they could charge it to last month. However they said they could not charge like that.  When I get my bill I will ask again. However they seem like they are stuck on the idea. But still $470 saved a good start.

  • NJ

    Great post. I just called my telco to waive 1.5GB of excess data, BEFORE the end of my current bill period. I would have had to pay $350 in excess if I’d not noticed until my bill was issued, but because I noticed early, I was able to purchase 2GB of extra data for $24, which was then added to my $79 cap (total $103). Nice saving of $325.

  • Lisa

    Thank you! You just gave me that extra bit of confidence and ended up saving $200 of a $400 charge :)

    Note to all: Virgin Australia charge $25 PER MINUTE to Norfolk Island from Brisbane!

  • Kevin Zaldarriaga

    You sir are a Legend! Saved 50% of my massive phone bill. Thanks for the information