/ Home & Energy, Technology

Brief cases: faulty mobile phone

iphone 6

What are you rights when your mobile phone handset develops a fault while it’s still under warranty and you’re on a contract?

Which? Legal member Clare Bromell bought an iPhone 6 with a two-year O2 contract from Carphone Warehouse for her daughter in November 2015. She paid £60 upfront and then £38.88 monthly onwards.

In February 2017, the phone stopped working and Apple provided a report confirming it wouldn’t switch on. Mrs Bromell spoke to Carphone Warehouse and it said it would send the phone for ‘repair’ for £270. She gave the store the handset but said she didn’t intend to pay.

She then wrote to Carphone Warehouse’s chief executive, saying the phone should be repaired under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, but she was ignored.

The repairers returned the phone to the store in late February and confirmed Apple’s report. Carphone Warehouse said it could help no further, so Mrs Bromell turned to Which? Legal.

Our advice

We advised Mrs Bromell that O2 was liable under the contract taken out.

O2 said that she’d signed a joint contract and it was only responsible for the Sim and Carphone Warehouse for the handset.

She put in a formal complaint to O2, and the next day was called by its serious complaints department.  She was initially offered a one-month contract reduction, but eventually a replacement refurbished handset.

The law

With mobile phone contracts you’re buying both goods and services. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the goods should be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and match their description. If they are not, you have the right to reject the item within 30 days.

If that period has passed, you can get a repair or replacement, which must be done within a reasonable time at the trader’s cost.

In buying a mobile phone, different parties are often involved. Here, Apple was the manufacturer, Carphone Warehouse was the agent delivering the phone and O2 was the service provider.

If, like Mrs Bromell, you buy a service contract with a handset from a service provider, and pay a small fee then monthly payments, you should claim against the service provider.

If the firm won’t budge, you can reject the phone or request a price reduction, although the company can make a deduction reflecting the use that you’ve had.

You can escalate your complaint to the operator’s dispute resolution service, either the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) or Ombudsman Services Communications.

This article by the Which? Legal team originally appeared in the October 2017 edition of Which? magazine

Has your phone ever developed a faulty while you’re still tied into a contract? Did you  provider replace or repair it?

Brenda Smith says:
10 July 2018

Trying to help a dear friend who is 83 years old and I believe has been missold a mobile phone package through local Vodafone shop. Took out a new contract Dec 2017 with a free upgrade to a Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016), she told them she only uses the internet to browse on Facebook and messaging. She’s ended up with a package including 32gb of data and her latest monthly bill is £54.06 ! That seems massively excessive in my opinion. Need to get this sorted for her ASAP.


As nobody has replied to you in the last two hours Brenda I will . Sorry to say after much checking up “getting out ” of your friends contract with Vodaphone without substantial damages is near impossible ,especially after only 6 months . Vodaphone are not in the habit of downgrading a contact either although you could try . What would work if your friend can be proved to have some type of “mental condition ” ongoing or increasing rendering her incapable of making the correct choices , she would have to be in the “vulnerable ” category , then I have seen cases of success but if not I think she is stuck with it . But you could try that line with them , they are not very accommodating as many websites and posters have said , all the same I am sympathetic to her case and wish you and her the best of luck.

DerekP says:
10 July 2018

Brenda, sorry to hear about this problem.

I agree that 32gb of data is an excessive monthly data allowance for basic access to Facebook and messaging.

I also agree that £54/month is far more than one should have to pay to meet those needs. For example, with good value pay as you go networks, one can get unlimited minutes each month plus 3GB data for £10/month.

I have an O2 contract that I have twice “rolled down” to keep its monthly cost below £10/month, but I don’t think I rolled the package down until after the first formal contract period of 12 months had ended.

£60/month is a fairly typical mobile phone bill for a fashion conscious young person to have, but it’s a daft amount to have to spend, if only a limited and simple service is needed.

You may have to help your friend read all the small print on her contract but it might also be worth revisiting the shop that sold the contract to complain about being oversold. It would probably be within their power to roll down the contract into a less expensive package, but they may think they have her “over a barrel” and so may take some persuading.

I have no particular experience of Voda, but I do know that when certain young people don’t manage to afford their £60 each month, they just get cut off until such times as they can. So I’m not sure what would happen if your friend just cancelled any direct debits and handed back the phone – probably nothing too much to worry about. (I think one of my brothers got away with doing that once, but it was within a few days of taking out the contract and I cannot remember who the unfortunate retailer was.)

As we learn through many experiences shared by Which?, many of those employed in retail sales are on very low basic wages backed up by sales commission incentives and are forced to work against very aggressive sales targets. So they all have plenty of reasons to talk up each and every sale.


Hi Brenda – It’s long past the 30 day cooling-off period during which your friend could have cancelled the contract (less any call charges used during the time). I expect that this is a two year contract because a phone was provided and at the monthly price it was probably provided ‘free’.

I think the best plan is to push Vodafone to change the contract on the basis of the age of your friend. In your friend’s position I would ask to pay the balance for the phone and move to either a pay as you go or a SIM-only package. I doubt that the company will allow you to do any negotiation but you could be there when she makes the call to prompt her if needed. You can call Vodafone free of charge on 191 to avoid the online chat that they are keen on. (I’m not sure why a phone company is reluctant to speak to their customers!)

Best of luck and please let us know what happens.

Brian Brydon says:
14 August 2018

I received s sim only card with Plus Net on the the 7th August and 7 days later still haven’t been connected as they say I must wait for a email. despite contacting them three times to cancel I am informed I cannot cancel until I receive this e-mail despite me having paid the first monthly rental and been sent a mobile number. Their terms and conditions state I can cancel under the 14 day cooling off period the day after I placed the original order, which was the 5th August.