Botched phone plans and lack of data usage monitoring is leaving many Australians shell shocked over their mobile bills, with bills so large many can’t pay up or refuse to pay up, and more are copping defaults on their credit file. There is an increasing number of credit listing complaints from Telco consumers relating to internet data usage on mobile phones. We have seen it here, and the Telecommunications Ombudsman has also released similar findings in its annual report today. We look at the finding in this report, and the plight of telco customers with bad credit history.

By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and

Consumers are confused when it comes to data allowance on their smartphones, and the providers are not helping.

Often clients have claimed to go over their allowance really quickly, or the plan they were put on was not appropriate for what they intended to use their mobile internet for. Often they can have great difficulty in cancelling the accounts or coming to a resolution with the company over these billing issues.

Almost 26 per cent of our credit repair clientele in the 12 months to July were Telco customers.

Sometimes consumers reluctantly pay the bill, think the matter is settled, only to find they are defaulted anyway, and others just refuse to pay the bill until they get some resolution. Either way, they are faced with at least 5 years of bad credit from the episode unless they can make a successful complaint.

This reflects findings from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) report on its services for the last financial year, which was released today.

The TIO’s findings show mobile phone users are increasingly unhappy with the service they receive, with a 9 per cent rise in complaints last financial year.

Ombudsman Simon Cohen said two out of three complaints made to the TIO were about mobile phones, with the biggest percentage rise about disputed internet usage charges (150 per cent).

“Complaints about unexpectedly high bills and unnecessary financial overcommitment point to the urgent need for strong spend management rules, including those that are included in the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code,” Mr Cohen said.

A Telecommunications Protection Code has recently been pushed through with the guidance of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) which will amongst other things require telcos to provide their customers with notifications when they have used 80% and 100% of their data usage in the plan.

These changes come after pressure from ACMA for Telcos to offer better protection for consumers, or face external regulation.

The TIO’s annual report also shows a rise in complaints about credit default listings. Complaints about consumers being credit default listed while their debt was in dispute increased 18 per cent from 3,700 to 4,370. There was also a 16 per cent increase in complaints about consumers being credit default listed without proper notification, up from 3,220 to 3,730.

“I am very concerned about the increase in the number of complaints where credit default listings are disputed,” Mr Cohen said “Credit listings can have very significant impacts on people – affecting applications for credit, including for housing and personal loans. Any credit default listing should only occur after the correct procedures have been followed.”

Preventing a credit file default on your mobile phone bill often comes down to awareness of legalities.

Many people don’t know the rules well enough when dealing with these big companies, so it can be a little like David and Goliath and many times the big guy wins.

Here’s some ideas on what you can do if you disagree with a mobile phone bill:

How to Dispute That Shocking Mobile Bill

1. Attempt to resolve the dispute with the Telco first. If a bill has just popped up you don’t agree with, let your Provider know, and DOCUMENT ALL CORRESPONDENCE WITH THEM (and document who you speak with if you are calling).

2. You may need to make a formal complaint in writing. If there is no resolution over the telephone, set out what specific resolution you require, and all the details of your complaint. The telco has 30 days to answer any written complaint you make.

3. Get all responses in writing. The matter may seem at an end, but sometimes people believe they have sorted it out only to find out later they have been defaulted anyway. If you have come to a resolution with the telco verbally, get it in writing and make sure it clearly states what will happen from here.

4. If the matter can’t be resolved to your satisfaction internally, take your case to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. The TIO will make a decision on the matter, and their decision will be final. Make sure you provide as much evidence as you can for the Ombudsman to make an informed decision – you may only get one shot at it.

5. If at any stage you have a credit file listing from a Telco which you believe shouldn’t be there, you can undertake professional credit repair services. The credit repairer works on the consumer’s behalf to champion for the removal of credit file listings which contain errors or inconsistencies or just out and out shouldn’t be there. The credit repairer may escalate the matter to the TIO on the client’s behalf if necessary, but it may not be the only option.

A good credit repairer will conduct an audit-like investigation to uncover errors or non-compliance that may still see the default removed, even where an Ombudsman has sided with the Credit Provider.

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