personal finance

I cancelled my mobile phone contract but I'm being chased for money


Question

I cancelled my mobile phone contract six months ago, but have received demands from a debt collection agency working on behalf of the phone company. As far as I’m concerned, the contract has ended. What can I do to sort this out?

Answer

First, make sure that you settled any early repayment charges. If you didn’t, this could be why you’re being chased. Then check your emails and records for evidence that the contract with the phone company was cancelled.

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If you can provide proof that you settled the contract when you cancelled it, such as a receipt or bank statement, send a copy of this along with your complaint to the phone company,’ suggests Andrew Shaw, debt advice policy co-ordinator at StepChange Debt Charity.

How to complain successfully

If you’ve no evidence of cancellation, contact the phone company to obtain this. According to Trading Standards Officer Peter Carter, under the Data Protection Act, you’re entitled to copies of whatever records the phone company holds on you. Once you’ve obtained proof of cancellation, send a copy to the debt collector with a deadline, say 14 days, for the agency to acknowledge in writing that the debt doesn’t exist.

‘A debt collector has no legal powers unless they have obtained a county court judgment,’ says Peter. You should make a complaint to both the debt collection agency and the phone company.

If the matter isn’t resolved, you can escalate your grievance by contacting the regulator or ombudsman. Complaints about debt collecting are regulated by the Financial Ombudsman Service. For disputes involving phones, go to Ombudsman Services, search ‘Sectors we cover’ and choose ‘Communications’. Or visit Ofcom.

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Before contacting the ombudsman, however, you must write to your phone company to describe the actions you asked them to take to resolve the problem. State that you’ve reached a ‘position of deadlock’ and will be taking the matter to the ombudsman. You can offer them a final chance to reconsider their position, but stress that if you don’t hear back within 14 days, you’ll refer the dispute on.

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Even if the error does turn out to be yours, you shouldn’t hear from a debt collection firm, nor be threatened with court action, without a prior warning letter and without the phone company giving you a reasonable chance to settle the outstanding bill.

If in doubt, call Citizens Advice to discuss your specific case. They helped nearly 50,000 people with mobile phone debt-related problems last year.

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