/ 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?

ACarter says:
22 September 2021

I got an iPhone on a 24-month contract with Three from Mobile Phones Direct in June 2020. The phone stopped working last week. I took it to the Apple store and they have confirmed it is a fault with the phone (not my fault) but it is outside their warranty.

Under the Consumer Rights Act I know that I can say the the phone was not fit for purpose for a 24 month contract but, do I take this claim out with Three or with Mobile Phones Direct?

Thanks for you help.

A Carter — Your consumer rights are against the seller, so if you bought it from Mobile Phones Direct you should contact them. I think the basis of your claim is sound.

I suggest you make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act, A Carter. Here is advice from Which? https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product-aTTEK2g0YuEy
Apple has examined your phone and presumably there is no evidence that the damage was caused by the user, so it should be easy to make a claim against the seller – as John has said. You may need to negotiate an acceptable solution, which could be an Apple refurbished phone, a discount on a new phone or a partial refund. Best of luck.

Perhaps we should push for better guarantees from Apple? However I suspect that, as with many products, it will be very difficult to achieve.

Perhaps it would be good if Apple and other phone manufacturers offered a longer guarantee as standard. If you buy direct from Apple they can be very generous to their customers as I found when I was quoted over £800 for a repair for a three and a half year old laptop but was told that this was covered under the Consumer Rights Act. Ian has had excellent experiences too.

John Lewis offers a two year guarantee on Apple products but from speaking to family and others it seems best to buy direct if you are unlucky enough to have a problem.