Mobile bill limits

Published: 30 June 2023
Last updated: 30 June 2023

Since 1 October 2018, all mobile providers must give the option to limit the cost of bills to new customers and to any existing customers who agree to extend their contract or enter into a new contract.

If you switch providers, renew your contract or enter into a new contract with your current provider from 1 October 2018, you can request a bill limit. This will be included in your contract.

Some providers may voluntarily offer a bill limit to customers who took out their mobile phone contract before 1 October 2018. However, they are not required to do this. Check with your provider to discuss how to manage your bill costs. Also, see Ofcom’s tips about avoiding ‘bill shock’ when using your mobile in the UK.

If you took out your mobile phone contract on or after 1 October 2018, you can request a bill limit at any time. Ask your provider or check your contract to see how much notice you will need to give before a bill limit will be activated. A reasonable notice period shouldn’t be longer than a single billing period (in most cases this will be one month).

If you agreed to a bill limit before you took out your contract, it should be in place from the start.

Your provider is only required to apply a bill limit to the mobile phone services that they provide to you. This will cover your use of your mobile phone to send text messages, make calls and use data. This does not cover other charges on your bill that may be charged by your mobile provider but are not mobile phone services, for example, fees for paper bills or late payment fees.

A bill limit does not have to cover other types of services provided by third parties that you may use your mobile phone to access.  For example, a bill limit does not have to include the full cost of premium rate services (which usually operate on numbers beginning 09, 118, 084, 087 or five or six digit mobile voice and text shortcodes) but it must include your provider’s charge for accessing these services. See further explanation about the difference between access charges and service charges. Similarly, a bill limit may not cover certain charge to mobile services that allow you to pay for goods and services from app stores, third party publishers and merchants via your phone bill.

Although they are not required to do so, some providers may choose to include the full cost of premium rate services or ‘charge to mobile’ services within your bill limit. Many providers offer other ways to manage these costs e.g. call barring. You should check with your provider what they offer.

If you are concerned about what is or isn’t covered by a bill limit, check with your provider.

See our guide for tips about using apps on your mobile phone and being aware about the cost of in-app purchases.

See also Ofcom’s video guide about how to turn off in-app purchases.

If you have received an unexpected phone charge on your phone bill, see this guide from the Phone-paid Services Authority.

No. Providers are only required to offer a bill limit for mobile phone services.

See Ofcom’s guides to managing the cost of home broadband and home phones.

This will depend on your needs. You may want to consider if you want to stop using mobile phone services as soon as you reach your monthly allowance and only pay your contract price (e.g. a £0 limit) or if you would want a bit of flexibility to spend above this amount each month (e.g. an extra £5 limit).

When setting a bill limit you should think about the different types of mobile phone services that are covered (see FAQ4). If you regularly pay for a mobile phone service in addition to your monthly contract price, and want to continue to do so with a bill limit in place, then you should allow for these costs when setting your bill limit. Discuss with your provider what might be an appropriate limit based on your typical usage.

Your provider will let you know if you are likely to reach the limit before the end of a particular billing period. Your contract should explain when and how your provider will give you this notice. For example, your provider may send a text message to warn you if your usage has reached 80%.

When you have reached your bill limit, your provider will give you a further notice. Once your limit is reached you may not be able to make calls, send text messages or use data above your monthly allowance. However, you will still be able to access emergency services. If your provider allows you to continue to use mobile phone services after your limit has been reached, they cannot charge you beyond the bill limit unless you have agreed to go over it.

Yes. If you want to change the level of your bill limit with your provider, you can agree, amend or remove the bill limit either for a specific billing period or for all future billing periods.

If your provider notifies you that you are nearing or have reached your bill limit for a particular billing period (see FAQ7) and you are happy to go over it on this occasion you will need to agree to this first. Your provider must confirm in writing (e.g. by text message, email or letter) that you have agreed to go over the bill limit for the particular billing period in question before you can be billed for any additional charges. This should not affect the level of your bill limit for other billing periods.

Yes, if you switch providers, renew your contract or enter into a new contract with your current provider on or after 1 October 2018 you can request a bill limit.

Yes, if roaming in your destination is included in your contract, any bill limit will apply while you are abroad.

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