Can't pay my bill but ineligible for financial hardship. What can I do?


I thought I set up a direct debit when I got the phone in February. But I musn't have done it right because I found out a few weeks ago I have a $600 bill.


I'm a student and my income is about $300 pw. They told me I have to pay $300 upfront to be able to set up a payment plan, which I simply can't afford. 


What am I supposed to do?

Re: Can't pay my bill but ineligible for financial hardship. What can I do?

[ Edited ]

Hi @hugh-jass,


Its a bit hard to work out what is happening here. Generally a failed direct debit would have meant your phone would be cut off after a month or two. Can you provide some details of what is actually being charged and why?


1) What plan (monthly $ and Gb) and phone do you have

2)  How long is your contract (12 or 24 months)

3) When was your phone cut off?

4) Has the plan been cancelled now?

5) Do you have a break down of the costs being asked for? Phone Fee, Plan Fee, Overdue fee, Cancellation Fee?

6) Have you talked to the Optus financial hardship department or just customer service?

7) Have you a copy of your last bill?


FWIW Optus must take into account your circumstances and should be able to specify (and freeze) a total amount owing and set up a reasonable month to month payment plan (say $50 a month for 12 months). but if you can answer those questions first we'll be better able to advise.




Peter Gillespie

Re: Can't pay my bill but ineligible for financial hardship. What can I do?


The bill hasn't been paid since I got it in Feburary but the service hasn't been cut off. 


1. Galaxy S8, $80 pm

2. 24 months

3. It hasn't been cut off

4. The plan hasn't been canceled

5. As far as I'm aware, it's more or less all just the acculumated bill from the service itself

6. I spoke to financial hardship and they told me I wasn't eligible but wouldn't tell me why, and then refered me to 'financial services' who said I couldnt set up a payment plan without paying $300 up front.






Re: Can't pay my bill but ineligible for financial hardship. What can I do?




Ok, so you've signed up for $1920 over two years - its a contractual obligation that requires attention. Contacting Optus and now here are good steps. The issue does need to be properly addressed now while its still managable. Neither you nor Optus want a default situation that is costly and messy for both of you. 


First you need to take stock of what you can afford to commit to. Optus will be looking for you to pay the existing debt as well as continue to pay the remainder of the debt ($80 per month). Once you understand your options you will be in a much better position to talk and agree to a way forward. It seems bizzare the financial hardship department is demanding $300 upfront when that is the debt you're saying is causing the hardship. I would suggest you contact the Financial Hardship Department (not finance) and they might have some better options. From that link they could reduce the monthly amount of your contract permanently or set up payment plans etc. 


There are a couple of options open to you IMO


1) First question is can you now pay the contract going forward? i.e. $80 a month? Note this would at best be coupled with some monthly payment of your outstanding debt (say around another $40 a month so that by the end of your 24 month contract the full amount is paid off). 


2) There is no fine on your plan for cancelling any time. You can ring up and do that today at the moment which means you don't owe $80 a month any more for the remaining 18 months. However you will owe the full cost of the handset. That would be around $800 or so I imagine. 


3) Your current S8 is worth around $500 easy on eBay. I would suggest you sell it as that improves your options a lot. Keep the SIM card. This gives you two main approaches:


a) Sell the S8. Cancel the contract with Optus. Arrange to pay the outstanding $300 over over the next few months. This leaves you at square one but you can then make a better suited purchase moving forward. I would recommend looking at a post paid plan that means you can vary your payments as circumstances arise (i.e. cut down usage and go wifi when other bills arrive)


b) Sell the S8. Keep the SIM. Pay Optus the $300. With the other $200 buy a cheaper phone outright. I'd suggest a super cheap old phone for under $50 but you can get great phones under $300  (eg. Nokia 3.1 ($250 Stock Android FW). This gets you a good phone, a hardship payment plan on the outstanding $300 debt and the usual $80 a month going forward.


But knowing these options you should definitely contact the proper department in Optus and talk again. You do have a fair bit of power in the conversation. Make it (politely) clear that 


a) You do want to settle the debt 

b) That $300 upfront is not an option and will only result in a total default (something neither of you want)

c) That you want to continue the plan or cancel completely (you have to decide that yourself) 

d) You could also (politely) ask why your phone has been left connected by Optus for six months with no payments or contact on the matter.


If you can't get to an arrangement you might also want to talk to a qualified debt person (that's not me btw). The Hardship link I provided above provides many free and independent options where you can discus options and maybe get help including:


You may obtain free and independent assistance by calling 1800 007 007 to speak to a Financial Counsellor.  Alternatively you can also visit National Debt Helpline by visiting their website


Good Luck and let us know how it turns out.


Peter Gillespie

Re: Can't pay my bill but ineligible for financial hardship. What can I do?


Wow I don't know who you are but thank you for the detailed response.


I do want to keep the phone and I am able to start paying the $80pm straight away, and when I was on the phone to optus they refused my offer of an extra $100pm (on top of the $80) to go towards the debt until it was repayed, which was a huge kick in the nuts, as are most interactions with overseas call centres.


I already contacted the financial hardship department and they told me that I was ineligible for their services, but would not tell me why. They asked when I last had a job and I told them I was working about 9 months ago - they seemed to infer that I was unable to pay the bill when I signed the contract (which isnt the case) and that seemed to be why they knocked me back.


What should I tell them when I call back to avoid being told im ineligible? 

Re: Can't pay my bill but ineligible for financial hardship. What can I do?


Hi @hugh-jass


You're welcome. Just to be clear that there is no magic bullet here. You are dealing with a bureaucracy and one that has made a lot of corporate decisions to place the company well being above those of its customers. Different people will tell you different things so making contact again may well result in a different result. That said the Optus financial hardship webpage seems to list changes in your situation. Technically your situation hasn't changed so possibly some check box in the bureaucracy can't be filled in. 


In this case both you and Optus have stuffed up. As a credit provider its actually on Optus to assess the suitablity of entering your contract. Assessing people as able to pay (either through not asking enough questions or ignoring the answers) when they can't is illegal (as Westpac recently discovered). Optus have also apparently overlooked six months of non payment before taking any action. On you is not noticing the lack of bills and following it up.


But that's not really going to help you in the short term. In the energy sector there are rules on backbilling with the general approach being any lump sum  must be given the same amount of time as originally to pay off (i.e. 6 months of debt = 6 months to pay off). 


However I think your best bet is to raise the spectre of the TIO. This ombudsman will work (and can make orders) on your behalf. They are there to ensure Telcos act appropriately. I would contact the Financial Hardship office (1300 301 276) again and put it simply that a $600 bill is not within your ability to pay. That Optus have left an unpaid bill continue for 6 months without notice. That you want to arrange to pay it and that you want to finish out the rest contract as entered. I would also put this in simple terms in writing with a specific offer to pay it off (i.e. an extra $40 a month for the remainder of the contract) FWIW things in writing are taken much more seriously as discussions over the phone have a way of not being recorded these days.


Optus Assist Advocacy Team
PO Box 280, Collins Street West
Melbourne VIC 8000


I would mention that you are requesting financial assistance and if the person refuses to progress ask for a specific reason. They should be able to tell you why not. If they can't then say you have acted in good faith to try pay the debt and will be filling a complaint with the TIO to look into the matter.


Then file a complaint with TIO. 


As I say, there's no magic bullet and hopefully Optus can come to the party. If they don't then you'll need to manage the process as best you can. The TIO can be very helpful as well as having some stuff in writing (keep copies). I would write that the $600 is in dispute/negotiation but continue to pay your $80 a month as the bills arrive (either get the direct debit working and confirm it or just pay it via the other ways. Optus just takes any payment and puts it towards your account.




Peter Gillespie

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