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How to Dispute a Mobile Phone Bill

Fiona Leake
Fiona Leake
  | Edited by Tom Church
Updated 22nd February 2021

Can you dispute an expensive mobile phone bill? If you’ve been overcharged on your mobile phone bill, you can complain to your network and have the extra charges removed. Our guide explains how to do this and where those extra charges might have come from.

Whilst it’s uncommon, mobile networks can make mistakes. You could be charged for services you didn’t use or purchases you didn't make or even simply a miscalculation. Either way, you shouldn’t be paying for your mobile provider’s mistakes on your bill.

If your bill is higher than expected, you should raise it with your mobile provider, we explain how in this guide.

Why is my mobile phone bill so high?

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Before disputing a mobile phone bill, it’s important to consider other factors that might have contributed to your high bill and what you might have done to accumulate these charges. 

Here are some factors that can influence your mobile bill:

  • Exceeding your allowance - if you’ve used more minutes, texts and data than what’s included in your allowance then you’ll be charged extra.
  • First and last bills - you first and last phone bills are sometimes higher than usual. First phone bills can charge for extra days and last phone bills can have additional cancellation charges.
  • Mid-plan price increases - your phone bill might increase due to inflation or at the end of a promotional period.
  • Using your phone abroad - using your mobile phone when on holiday can lead to a large unexpected bill. Read our guide on roaming abroad for more information.
  • Calling or texting a foreign number - if you call or text and foreign number whilst in the UK, you might incur additional charges.
  • Calling or texting chargeable numbers - if you call or text to enter a competition, for example, you’ll be charged on your bill. Chargeable numbers usually start with an 0800, 0808, 0845, 0870 or 03. For more information on chargeable numbers, take a look at the government’s list.

Always check your phone bill every month and take note of any extra charges. If an extra charge isn’t due to one of the above reasons, you can contact your mobile provider and query it. 

Why might I have been charged too much on my phone bill?

If none of the above reasons apply and you haven’t received a higher phone bill due to a legitimate reason, then you might be able to challenge it. 

You might have been unfairly too much for the following reasons:

  • Your provider’s got your bill wrong - your provider simply might have got your bill incorrect and you can ask them to change it.
  • You’ve been charged more than your billing limit - if your phone contract started or was renewed from 1st October 2018, then mobile providers have to let you set a ‘billing limit’. If your provider charges more than the billing limit without asking, you don’t have to pay. 

Can I dispute a mobile phone bill?

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Yes, you can dispute a mobile phone bill that’s too high. However, if you’re the cause of the extra charges, you’ll have to pay them and can’t challenge it. For example, if you’ve exceeded your allowance or used your phone abroad, you’re responsible for paying the higher bill.

However, if the extra charges are unjustified and a mistake on your provider’s part, then they need to remove them. 

Remember, even if extra charges are small you can and should challenge them!

When I was with EE I regularly had extra charges on my bill that I could never understand, I never went over my allowances or anything like that, it was only an extra pound or so every month but frustrating all the same.

We’ll explain how to dispute a mobile phone bill below:

How to dispute a mobile phone bill

If you’re concerned about a high mobile phone bill and are sure that the charges are unjustified, you can begin the process of disputing your bill. Here’s how to dispute a mobile phone bill step-by-step.

Step 1: Identify the extra charges

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If you receive a mobile phone bill that’s higher than usual, the first thing you should do is verify whether it’s a mistake by looking at your itemised bill. 

You should receive monthly itemised bills through the post. For paperless billing, log into your online account to see your itemised bill. If you still can’t find one, you can always ring your mobile network provider and ask for an itemised bill to be sent to you. 

You can then cross-check the charges on your bill with your agreed contract and monthly allowance. Any extras that you’ve bought such as competition entries, roaming abroad or exceeding your allowance will also appear on this itemised bill. 

Double-check with the people you live with to make sure they haven’t used your phone and incurred extra charges. Sadly, this does happen as one Latest Deals member shared their experience: 

Years ago a "friend" asked to borrow my phone to make a call. Since they were struggling financially at the time I agreed, but really was not happy when I got a £37 bill after they were done downloading all sorts of things onto my phone to use too (which they deleted afterwards so I had no idea they even did it!) - all over data rather than WiFi! They refused to pay the bill so I was stuck with having to pay it, and never let them use any of my things again.

If you don’t recognise something listed, you can dispute it with your provider. 

Step 2: Challenge your mobile phone bill over the phone

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If you’ve noticed unexplained charges on your mobile phone bill, you can dispute it with your provider by calling the customer service team. They should be able to explain the charges to you or remove them from your account if incorrect. 

Here’s who to call for each mobile network:

ProviderCustomer service numbersLive Chat?
EEEE mobile - 150
Other phones - 0800 079 8586
No
ThreeThree phones - 333
Other phones - 0333 338 1001
Yes
O2O2 phones - 202
Other phones - 0344 809 0202
Limited during pandemic
VodafoneVodafone phones - 191
Other phones - 0333 304 0191
Yes - digital assistant
Virgin MobileVirgin Mobile phones - 789
Other phones - 0345 600 0789
Yes
BT MobileBT Mobile phones - 150
Other phones - 0800 800 150
Yes
Tesco MobileTesco Mobile phones - 4455
Other phones - 0345 301 4455
Yes
Sky MobileSky Mobile & other phones - 033 0041 2639No
Plusnet MobilePlusnet Mobile phones - 500
Other phones - 0800 079 1133
Yes
iD MobileN/A - iD Mobile's customer service is online only.Yes
GiffgaffYou can leave a voicemail on 0330 041 4802No - raise a complaint online
VOXIN/A - VOXI's customer service is online only.Yes
SmartyN/A - Smarty's customer service is online only.Yes and make a complaint online
Lebara MobileLebara Mobile phone - 5588
Other phones - +44 207 0310791
Yes
TalkTalkAll phones - 0345 172 0088No

Calling your mobile phone provider can instantly resolve the situation, as one Latest Deals member found: 

It’s been years since I’ve had it happen, and when it did happen, I just called them up and they agreed to reduce it.

Step 3: Write a complaint letter to your mobile network

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If calling hasn’t resolved the issue, then you can write a complaint letter or even take it further and write a formal complaint letter. Here are the steps you can take:

  • Write a letter explaining why you think you’ve been overcharged and attach a copy of your mobile phone bill.
  • Include: Name, address, phone number and customer account number. Citizens Advice has a template letter you can use.
  • Send the letter to your network’s customer services. Make sure you send it recorded delivery so you have proof that it’s been delivered, so the provider can’t ignore it!

If you still haven’t received a response that resolves the issue then you can lodge a formal complaint with your mobile provider. Your provider’s website should explain how to do this, it should also be on the back of your bill. 

Step 4: Escalate your complaint

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If the issue still hasn’t been resolved then it’s time to escalate your complaint. You can ask your mobile provider for a deadlock letter. A deadlock letter allows you to escalate your dispute to the ombudsman or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.

An ombudsman or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme acts as a middleman who looks at both sides of the argument. After weighing up both sides, the ombudsman or ADR will decide whether your mobile phone bill was overcharged and what action should be taken.

Every mobile phone provider belongs to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. Either the Ombudsman Services: Communications or the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS). Your provider can tell you which one or you can use Ofcom’s ADR checker tool.

What if my mobile network provider doesn’t give me a deadlock letter?

If your mobile provider hasn’t supplied you with a deadlock letter eight weeks after you’ve asked for one, you can contact the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme anyway. 

What happens after I’ve contacted the ombudsman/ADR?

It depends on the scheme. You might have to fill in a form or write out your complaint in a letter. If it’s a letter, make sure that you make it clear what the dispute is, how you’ve tried to resolve it and include all your contact details.

Make sure you include any financial loss you’ve endured, along with any inconvenience, stress and time it’s cost you. Don’t forget to include any correspondence you’ve had with your mobile provider too. 

The ombudsman will then analyse both sides and come to a decision. You’ll receive the result in a letter. If it’s in your favour, it’ll explain what your provider must do to compensate you. 

Can I take my complaint to Ofcom?

You can tell the communications regulator Ofcom. However, they don’t investigate individual complaints. Ofcom will investigate any providers who have a bad track record of complaints. If loads of customers complain about being overcharged, Ofcom will certainly look into it. 

What should I do if I have a huge bill after using my phone abroad?

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If you have been overcharged while using your phone abroad, the same process applies as above. You’ll have to challenge your bill and escalate it if the matter hasn’t been resolved. However, before using your phone abroad you should always double-check what extra charges may apply with your provider. Otherwise, you might rack up a huge bill without being aware of it. 

Will I still be charged more for using my phone abroad?

It depends on where you’re going. Within the EU, you’re allowed to use the same monthly allowance that you use in the UK. However, your limits might be capped to a smaller amount. This means you won’t be charged unless you exceed your allowance of calls, texts and data.

Travel further afield and you’ll be hit with much higher roaming charges. So, always ask your provider before travelling what charges you can expect. 

Read our guide on how to get cheap data roaming abroad for more information.

How can I avoid higher mobile phone charges in future?

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If you’re often hit with a surprisingly high mobile phone bill, there are some steps you can take to prevent this from happening:

  • Downgrade to a cheaper tariff - if your phone bills are too high, you could ask your provider to downgrade to a more affordable tariff. If you’re still in contract, you might not be able to but it’s worth asking.
  • Cap your allowance - some networks will allow you to ‘cap’ your spending. This means that once you’ve used your monthly allowance of calls, texts and data, you’ll be unable to spend anymore. This will avoid extra charges and a surprise bill. 
  • Avoid chargeable numbers - if you frequently enter competitions by texting chargeable numbers, the cost can add up without you noticing. 

Remember, if you’re charged for anything above your capped amount, you can refuse to pay as this is a breach of contract. Also, if any unexpected charges on your mobile phone bill weren’t made by you, challenge it!

Read our guide for more tips on reducing your mobile phone bill.

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