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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?

Comments
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/