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What to do if you’ve been sold a phone plan you can’t afford

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Mobile phones are a part of everyday life for many of us, but when it comes to phone plans, it’s easy to get into strife through no fault of your own.

There have been numerous cases where the poor behaviour of telcos has seen young people rack up a lot of debt.

In the most recent case, the Federal Court ordered Telstra to pay $50 million after it signed more than 100 Indigenous people to contracts they couldn’t afford or didn’t understand. One of the victims ended up with a debt of up to $19,000!

Unfortunately, there are many similar stories. One example that comes to mind is a young man who was signed up to a phone contract that was costing him double his weekly pay.

It’s also happening in lots of different places across the country. Financial Counselling Australia found 80 per cent of its network of counsellors had clients who had been mis-sold products.

Mis-selling involves being persuaded to buy something you can’t afford or has complicated language and conditions that you cannot fully understand. It’s illegal under Australian consumer law and help is available if you’ve been sold a product that’s too expensive for you.

What you can do

1. Speak to a free financial counsellor – Financial counsellors played a critical role in the Telstra action and they can help you too. You can call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

2. Make a complaint to the phone provider – If you have been sold a phone that you cannot afford after you told the salesperson your circumstances, the telco is in the wrong. You can make a complaint and ask to be changed to a cheaper contract or have it cancelled altogether.

3. Make a complaint to the Telecommunications Ombudsman – If your phone provider hasn’t handled the situation after your complaint, you can go to the independent ombudsman. It’s a free service. https://www.acma.gov.au/complain-telecommunications-ombudsman

4. Speak to the hardship team – The company that sold you your phone has a special team that is supposed to help customers who are having trouble paying their phone bill. Ask to speak to them. Often a payment plan can be arranged.

Remember, there are lots of ways to get out of debt and you don’t have to do it on your own.

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