Cellphone Bill Debt – Help & Advice

Most cellphones are taken out on a payment plan in which you make monthly payments towards your plan in exchange for texts, minutes and data. These are often expensive and come with additional charges, especially when travelling.


Cellphone are often considered a necessity in everyday life. Across the world nearly 5 billion people own a cellphone and they are used for everything from texting to banking to online shopping. However, it has been reported by the National Post that Canadian phone bills are amongst the most expensive on the planet.

Compared to European countries, Canadian phone plans are more than double the price and there are caps on all your usages. According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the average basic plan is $41 per month, whereas it is possible to obtain a similar plan for $17.

One of the most common reason for people to fall into debt with their phone bill is down to the overage and roaming charges. Most cellphone plans cap their international roaming charges at $100, so for the more than 40 million people who often travel to the US this can be gone within a few hours once you cross from one country to the other.

Many will even buy a second phone with a US Carrier just to try and avoid the charges, meaning they then have to pay for multiple plans each month.

The CTRC did introduce a national ‘Wireless Code’ in late 2013 which was supposed to help people have a better understanding of their cellphone plans and reduce additional fee to try and prevent surprise bills, more commonly known as ‘bill shock’.

However, it was found in a survey conducted by TNS Canada that 21% were still being hit with unexpected charges each month and nearly half of them stated that overage fees were the main cause of this. Data overage can cost anywhere between $50 and $500 on any given monthly bill. It’s no secret that society has become quite dependent on the internet and these charges can often be enough to just tip you over the edge of affordability.


The average basic plan is $41 per month

How Cellphone Bill Debt Can Affect Your Life

For many their cellphone is a staple of their everyday life, and not paying your bill can lead to a number of consequences such as debt collectors coming for the money or your pan being canceled. However, falling behind on your phone bill can impact your life in many ways besides your phone being cut off.

Personal Finances

Your phone bill is often ranked as one of your priority bills, but if you default it will likely be sent to a collection agency. These companies will write to you, call you and sometimes even turn up at your door to try and make a payment plan. This can have a knock-on effect on your other finances because you have to cut back elsewhere to cover this which may leave you short for other priority bills.

It is also common for people to charge their phone bills to a credit card because they do not have the funds to cover it from their own income. According to an article by Global News, 31% of Canadians say they do not earn enough money to cover their bills and debt payments. This often means they have to look to other forms of credit such as loans or overdrafts to allow them to get by and it becomes a merry-go-round that you can’t get off.

Mental Health

Mental health is a hot topic all over the world, and according to the charity Mental Health Research Canada half a million people will miss work each week due to their mental health. This often cause people to fall further into financial struggles because their income will be impacted.

This in turn can lead to heightened feelings of stress, anxiety and irritability. Many who are dealing with debt and mental health struggles also find it very hard to bring the topic up in conversation which can cause feelings of loneliness and worthlessness.


Your phone is often how you keep in touch with your friends and family, especially if you live far away from them. Falling behind on your bill can lead to your contract being cancelled and your phone being cut off, leaving many people uncontactable when it comes to work or appointments.

It has also been found by Manulife Bank of Canada that 1 in 5 people try to avoid the topic of money altogether which can cause tensions within personal relationships which ultimately can lead to them breaking down.

Warning Signs

If you are experiencing financial troubles with your phone bill, the below signs might look familiar to you:

  • Having charges on your bill each month that never seem to go down
  • Relying on credit cards or loans to help pay your phone bill
  • Having to cut back and leave yourself short for other bills
  • Avoiding the topic
  • Experiencing feelings of anxiety or irritability

It isn’t easy to spot if someone you know is struggling with their phone bill, but the points below are signs to look out for:

  • They suddenly become uncontactable
  • They are paying for more and more bills with credit cards or loans
  • They show signs of irritation or stress for no noticeable reason
  • They avoid the topic of bills or money
  • Tension in a relationship

If you are unsure about your phone debt, it is always worth checking the dates for the debt you are being chased for. The statute of limitations on phone debt is only two years so cannot be enforced. However, if you make even one payment to a debt collector for a time-barred debt the statute will be reset and you will become fully liable for the debt again.

How to Get Help

Debt isn’t always easy to understand, and everyone handles their situation differently. The below are some steps you can try to help you regroup and get back in control of your funds.

Sharing is Caring – Talking about your situation can often help to relieve the weight of your debt off your shoulders and can be the first step to finding the support you need.

Speak to a Them – Call your phone company and negotiate a payment plan. If the debt is with a collection agency, they will always have options for you to pay the debt off.

Get Help to Clear your Phone Debt – Debt doesn’t need to be as complicated as it appears. At Money Advice Canada our goal is to help make your debts simple, Our experts offer confidential, non-judgemental advice and will help you find the solution that’s right for you

Warning Signs

For many their cellphone is a staple of their everyday life

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