/ 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?

Michelle greenland says:
17 September 2020

I we got a iPhone 7 i put it on charge overnight by the morning it was still dead I contacted Apple went to my appointment there said no signs of damage or the customer misuse to have cause the issue, Full replacement offered out of watery at £279 & the phone is not repairable we contacted virgin & there won’t do nothing at all , I had the phone for 17 months

Hi Michelle – I suggest you make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act against the company that sold you the phone, presumably Virgin: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product If no repair is possible, as Apple has said, then a reasonable outcome would be a partial refund (the retailer can make a deduction for the amount of use you have had from the product) or a generous discount on a new phone. You might have to push for a better offer.

It is helpful to have had Apple look at the phone because this suggests that the phone has not been abused, an extremely common reason for failures of mobiles. If you are not accustomed to fighting for your rights it might be worth getting personal advice from Which? Legal: https://legalservice.which.co.uk

If you had bought the phone direct from Apple I suspect that they would have replaced it with a refurbished model as long as there is no sign of damage – as in your case.

Looks like some iPhone charging chips fail all too easily, especially if 3rd party chargers are used, see:-https://youtu.be/FLdliOJ0J24

Thanks Derek. If I was a phone manufacturer I would warn owners that they could fry their phones using a cheap charger. There is also a.small risk that a dodgy charger could electrocute you or burn the house down: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/09/killer-chargers-travel-adaptors-and-power-banks-rife-on-online-marketplaces/

Farjana Rahman says:
23 September 2020

Hi I had phone contract from affordable mobile but I cancelled it same day. Still they sending me bills can you help me please

Hi Farjana – This Which? guide has information about cancelling services:

If you arranged the contract by phone or did it online and have not used the phone you should be able to obtain a full refund. If you have been using the phone the company will be entitled to make appropriate charges.

nicola mcdonnell says:
23 September 2020

i had taken a Vodafone contract with carphone warehouse and when it was due up for renewal was told i could upgrade and change it to a different network. at no time was i told that its new contract and i would have to cancel the other one. as they sell multiple providers i thought it was possible. i have now spent over 6 months complaining without a response and the assistant claims i never went in. or said i wanted to upgrade???
why are the industry not being regulated properly and being allowed to file it under credit agreement on credit agencies but claim its a service and not covered under telecommunications ombudsmans or under consumer rights acts??

Amanda Porter says:
27 September 2020

i have taken a contract with EE less than 30 days ago. The phone was supplied by ee and is part of my ee contract. After 27 days the phone battery ran out and will not charge. I ran a diagnostics test via live chat with an ee rep he said my phone is faulty then said i need to contact apple. Surely the responsibility lies with ee to supply me with a working phone and to not charge me for data and phone calls i cannot make until this issue is resolved and i have a phone which is working. The phone was working perfectly well until the battery ran out.

You are right Amanda. It is the responsibility of the retailer to take action and if the retailer says that you must contact the manufacturer they are breaking the law. For the first six months, a fault is presumed to be present when the phone was new unless the retailer can prove otherwise or that there is evidence of abuse.

I suggest that you make a claim against EE, who sold you the phone. There is advice on the Which? website: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product

In future I suggest you buy an iPhone direct from Apple and a separate SIM-only contract. Apple understand their legal responsibilities, though it can be expensive if you have cracked the screen or otherwise damaged a phone..

I agree that Amandas claim is against the retailer although it may be a simple claim against the manufacturer’s warranty in which case it could be donedirect.

I am confused by the case in the introduction for a phone presumably out of guarantee. The customer bought the phone with an O2 contract from Carphone Warehouse. Yet when there was resistance from them Which? Legal tell the customer to claim from O2. I don’t understand why and why Carphone Warehouse were not made to fulfil their obligations as the retailer.

If you claimed against the manufacturer you would have to pay to insure and post the phone back to the manufacturer, though the latter cost could be recovered.

Sometimes shops are unwilling to take back faulty goods for repair/replacement under a guarantee but I’ve found that polite persuasion works.


I took a contract 12 months Sim only with Virgin and unsure if I signed the docs but I received the SIMS which I didn’t activate and never used as I discarded them.I contacted Virgin to check the start date of the package which is when they told me they can’t Service my area and hence I cancelled the TV,BB and phone package but I am unsure why they didn’t cancel the whole package.I don’t believe they sent any letter regarding this.
I was unaware that I was being billed until I received a notice from a Collection agency BPO and I had to pay.I never received any correspondence written to say that I have outstanding balance but I had cancelled my DD from bank.
Can anyone please advise how can I approach this situation as I was told by Virgin that I will need to pay for whole contract if I am cancelling the contract.

Elaine says:
1 October 2020

My new Apple 11 phone screen cracked after being in my pocket.
After doing an online search found there to be a fault in the screens on this phone.
I want Apple to admit this as they say the damage is not covered by the warranty
This is a fault of apple as it’s not just me this has happened to.
My galaxy lasted years and never suffered any damage.

Hi Elaine – Your legal rights against the retailer rather than the manufacturer. If the phone is less than six months old then a fault is assumed to be present at the time of manufacture under the Consumer Rights Act, but the retailer can reject a claim if there is evidence of damage by the user. Which? has advice on making a claim: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product

Apple publishes a list of problems with their products and offers a free repair or other remedy: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/service-programs This covers cracked screens of some models of the Apple Watch but not the iPhone 11.

Best of luck with getting your phone fixed. I strongly recommend keeping any expensive phone in something like a leather case that will protect the screen and glass back because once a product is more than six months old it becomes harder to make a claim against a company.

Imran says:
8 October 2020

8.10.20 My mother ordered a sim only from Virgin mobile for her son in April 2016 too our dismay she was mis sold a sim they sent out 2 sim contracts when she wanted only one & virgin mobile been taking out £6.35 a month since April 2016 & my mum didn’t even know this was happening until I opened her mail and found out what was happening as my mother is in and out of hospital as she’s a heart patient this has caused her a lot of due stress today I’ve received a call frm virgin mobile outbound in Philippines saying they will cancel the alleged SIM card and as compensation they will only pay 6 months which is day light robbery from virgin media I’m now in appealing this why should my mum have too suffer all she wants is her money back if I didn’t check her mail they would have carried on taking money out of her account I’m also getting intouch with ofcom & trading standards and ombudsman I’m outrage that virgin mobile can treat its customers like this I’m also emailing Richard Branson that his company are mid leading its vulnerable customers by miss selling and are not willing too pay back the whole amount.

Darren Brodie says:
18 October 2020

I just upgraded to the new samsung note 20 ultra after being mislead in the store that i would be eligible for the free samsung smart watch offer they were offering on the galaxy series. the only reason i went with that phone.
i queried it later and was assured via text message from my supplier which is EE that i would indeed be eligible and would receive the email within 18 days. no email arrived so contacted customer service and have been informed that i am not eligible after all. where do i stand as it is a 1500 pound contract over 2 years the free watch has a rrp of 199

Alison says:
27 October 2020

Hi i signed up to a new contract with mobiles.co.uk with an ee sim, the deal stated 15gb 5g data but have since discovered that they have not give me a 5g phone. Unfortunately i am out of the 30day cool off period and only just discovered this due to not living in a 5g area. I have contacted mobiles.co
Uk and they have said that the 5g data is an incentive from ee and i signed up to a 4g phone but no where on the contract is that mentioed, i have asked for the reply to be sent in writing and asked for a manager to contact me but i havent heard anything what can i do please?

Hi Alison – Does the company still offer this deal? If the company advertised a 4G phone with 5G data that looks like a deliberate attempt to mislead.

I suggest you find out about the company’s complaint’s procedure and make a complaint.

Alison Baddeley says:
28 October 2020

Hello no they no longer supply ee phones. Would you complain via resolver?

That’s disappointing. I have no experience of using Resolver, Alison. Earlier this year I asked if anyone had experience of Resolver here on Convo but no-one answered. It seems to be a free service.

Your claim would be against the company you paid for the phone and contract. If you have paid extra for 5G data it is reasonable, in my view, to assume that the phone was compatible. I suggest you give mobiles.co.uk another ring because coronavirus is causing many problems at present.

If that does not work you could try Resolver or make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act, on the basis that the phone/contract combination is “not fit for purpose”, see: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-rights-act

If you made it clear that you wanted a 5G phone at the time of purchase that would be very helpful.

Please keep us updated.

Josh Riley says:
16 November 2020

My partner was cold-called by the third party provider, Prestige Telecom. During the call she was led to believe that that she was speaking to someone working on behalf of her own provider.
They explained that a simple five minute procedure was necessary because the company was merging with another provider.
They exchanged her EE 12-month, normal consumer contract for a 3-year Buisness contract therefore negating her consumer rights and cooling off period.
She does work as a sole trader but has never used or requested a business contract.
The SIM card hasn’t arrived and she is now stuck without a working phone.