/ 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/

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??

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.

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.

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.

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

Josh says:
1 December 2020

I’m currently on the phone trying to resolve this as well, I called and asked for the messages to be sent twice before and they weren’t sent, a guy on the phone told me they had been and his computer says so, so him saying that means I dont have a leg to stand on apparently, even though I called before and there’s no message on my phone. They also won’t help me with my phone which is basically on fire and stops working because of overheating. I have been truly screwed over by ee this time and its a bad year to be told you have to keep paying your thieves to keep thieving from you.

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.

James says:
11 December 2020

I have just signed a new mobile phone contract with Vodafone they have now changed the contract only a few days after giving me the contract. (Basically EU Roaming that was allowed is now limited to 62 days in 4 months compared to unlimited..

I am not sure where I stand – they have breeched the contract by changing it!

I was meant to have a trade in deal – but I am also sat here with my old phone and my new phone as I have not returned the old phone yet!

Vodafone is saying I can return my new phone and I can can be put back onto my old contract which I can then cancel early with no penalties. (There is 4 months left of my old contract to run)..

I am confused why I can do this on my old contract and not on my new contract!!

I understand the new contract means they loose 2 phones in this and they loose a newer iPhone12 instead of just and XR.. BUT they have not given me the contract they have offered so legally am I not within my right to cancel the new contract with no penalties and not even return the phone?

I am within my cooling off period (14 days) SO I could send it back with no problems – BUT – I have just got so fed up with the upgrade process with Vodafone and there pricing going from £80 a month to £43 a month depending on which department you speak with that i’m a little frustrated with them and feel I should look into the legal aspect of this before doing what they want / work best for them.

Any views much appreciated before I let Vodafone do what works best for them. 🙂

Vodafone Comment: Because we’re making this change, you have the right to leave us without paying an Early Termination Fee. We really hope you choose to stay, but if you’d like to leave, please call us on 0808 0057 376 (free from your Vodafone mobile) or chat with us online here within 30 days of receiving this email. We’re here from 8am to 8pm every day.

That to me seems to say I can leave without paying any fee! or am I reading it wrong…

I had misleaded a product from Vodafone. Which was post to been Vodafone. It could of been from a third party. But they said that my o2 contract was running out. I could it a cheaper deal and then after that I could get a new phone and go back with 02.it was so confusing I shouldn’t of agreed. I was mugg at a time, they put me on the spot. I rang 02 saying what had happened they said to me that they misleaded you a product which was post to be Vodafone. I am with 02. Whoever it was they are not allowed to do that. Now I got a bill of £30. Which i have not been using Vodafone at all. 02 told me to ask Vodafone to wipe the bill off it was not my fault what had happened. Whoever it was they were naughty to do it to you. This as cause me so much stress. I have phone Vodafone. They said it could of been a third party that done that. They can’t sort it out over the phone. Told me to go to Vodafone shopwhen I don’t drive said I am not getting the bus, because of what going on. Its given so much anxiety over this. I don’t no what to do now.

Anita says:
3 January 2021

How do i complain about a miss sold contact from Vodafone?

My iPhone has repeatedly fallen off a flat and nearly flat surface because it is so slippy. It doesn’t do it immediately, so I’ve been lulled into a false sense of security. I think if a product requires a cover to stop it moving, then that cover should be provided foc. As it is, the phone is 6 months old, damaged and Apple claim it is accidental damage, not covered unless additional insurance was taken out within 60 days of purchase. It was purchased direct from Apple. I say it is a known design flaw and it needs rectifying at the manufacturers cost.

With respect, if it has happened repeatedly then, with that experience, to mitigate damage I would be careful about the surfaces it was put on and maybe a case should have been purchased by now. But I do not see how it can slip off a flat (horizontal?) surface. I think Apple’s claim that it is accidental damage is fair. Cases are such a personal choice, so many available, and inexpensive (I’ve used snakehive) that I’d suggest buying one that you like a.s.a.p.

It is not possible for a phone for fall off a surface that is flat or nearly flat unless it is subject to vibration. It would be useful if phone manufacturers provided cases with their phones as standard if only to emphasise that their delicate products do need protection. I have a leather case as accidental damage protection and that seems non-slip.

Justin says:
9 January 2021

My Samsung note 20 caught fire whilst charging and vidafone are refusing to collect the device for repair etc….this has been ongoing for a month

Amla says:
15 January 2021

Got my phone by dpd but package was tampered complain about it 1 month no solution yet

Oh dear, what have dpd said about it ?

I have a Samsung s20 fe that I brought directly from Samsung it doesn’t hold charge or connect to Internet or 4g correctly its 49 days old and I’ve informed Samsung 7 days ago about the issue, they are dragging there feet as to what to do , I’ve asked for a replacement handset or refund but I’m not getting anywhere with them whats the next step

Bought a mi phone online from amazone. The mobile has lot of software issues. I have already submitted the phone thrice to mi care in the two months of buying the phone. But neither mi care is able to resolve the issues nor they are replacing the phone.

Hi, that’s frustrating to hear. Your contract is with Amazon (the retailer). So the best thing to do is to try to raise a support ticket with Amazon to get the phone either returned or replaced.


There is some great guidance on the link provided, let us know how you get on with it.

Craig Ingleby says:
6 March 2021

I’ve got a Samsung a40 on contract which is still under warranty I sent it bak t Samsung to get repaired they told me it was the battery then after 2 week they said cos there was a smal crack on corner of screen that was the reason my battery stopped working and told me it will be £139 to repair I refused got my phone back and it’s got damage that wasn’t there wen I sent it and now there saying they can’t acces the pics wat dpd took of the phone wen they collected it wat can I do

I’ve discovered via the Which website that my phone, a Huawei P20 Pro, no longer receives security updates. Surely that means it’s no longer fit for purpose?


It depends what you use your phone for. A sensible length of support should be required of any phone from when it was last sold. Which should,I think, not recomnend any phone without, perhaps, at least 4 years. But what Which? say is unlikely to have any real impact on phone sales and the waste they create.

Gary – I do not know of any cases of customers managing to take legal action because their phone was not supported for long. It’s the same with most smart TVs, which can start to lose functionality within a couple of years of purchase.

What I would like to see is phone packaging that prominently shows the date when support will be withdrawn on the packaging and for this to be shown in advertising, so that consumers can make an informed choice. The date should form part of the contract, so that if support is withdrawn sooner, the consumer could make a claim against the retailer.

To maximise the length of support it could be best to buy a phone soon after it is released, although it is likely to cost more.

At present the information provided by Which? is only a guide to the length of support, but hopefully manufacturers will be required to publish accurate figures. For years, Microsoft has published the dates when support for its software will be withdrawn.

It’s encouraging that publicity of the short support for Samsung phones has encouraged the company to do better with some of its newer models.

“It’s the same with most smart TVs, which can start to lose functionality within a couple of years of purchase”

I remember a discounted model – not too many years ago, perhaps 8 or 10 – which I bought and the “Rightmove” app never worked properly thanks to a change of protocol – before I got the set home! Never got to the bottom of it – but decided not to play the ultimate card of taking it back.

The difference between tv’s and phones is that with a tv the core use of watching programmes can continue and you can buy a separate box. An unsupported phone with no updates means it can’t be used securely and you may well be unaware that is the case. wave change has anybody you know tried to take legal action?

You are right, and we periodically discuss the various solutions for recovering access to catch-up services etc. on Which? Conversation. Nevertheless it is not right that TVs lose functionality so quickly, especially since customers are not informed about this at the time of purchase.

I agree with you about mobile phones and having followed discussions on this website I cannot remember if anyone has tried to take action about the problem. Sadly, the priority of many users is to upgrade to a newer model after two years or sooner. Which? is pushing for longer support and warning us about the perceived risks of using unsupported models, though the actual risks are uncertain. I’m fairly sure that Which? has never advised us to try to take legal action if we encounter this problem. I am disappointed that the Consumer Rights Act, 2015 does not seem to offer the protection we need.

If you asked a retailer if a phone would be supported for five years and they said ‘yes’, that would form part of the contract. I have used this approach in other circumstances. If you would like inexpensive legal advice you could subscribe to Which? Legal and see what they have to say.

Those of us who push retailers for support, such as Roger above, sometimes achieve results.

This will be an international problem. Which? may well be “pushing for support” but I suspect it is not going to get far without a cooperative approach, perhaps through BEUC, with at least the European consumer groups. Perhaps it is. So many of the issues these days extend well beyond our shores and, to be effective, need proper consumer representation. Market places, longer warranties/guarantees, fraud, product safety ……
It would be useful if Which? kept us informed on what areas of consumer detriment it was actively involved in internationally. @gmartin ?