/ Technology

Does getting a phone repaired push all the wrong buttons?

When your smartphone kicks the bucket, you’d hope your contract provider would be there to offer a suitable replacement. Unfortunately, that’s not the experience of two of my fellow Which? colleagues.

Aniela’s old-school replacement

I had to take my Samsung smartphone in for repair at O2 last week. Please note the word ‘smart’. When asked if I wanted a replacement phone I said, of course, and the sales assistant took a £25 deposit. The assistant then went out to fetch my replacement phone from the back room.

When she opened the box in front of me it was like stepping back in time. The phone had buttons, a tiny screen and its main selling features seemed to be an inbuilt mp3 player. Great if I was in search of props for a movie set in the noughties; not so great for replacing my smartphone.

I asked how O2 could offer this as a replacement phone (or a ‘courtesy phone’ as the sales assistant kept calling it) and was told this was the standard replacement phone.

Huh? To me it doesn’t seem quite right for my provider to offer these old phones when most people today have smartphones. A quick glance at the phones on display revealed nothing but sleek and shiny smartphones, making the situation even more ironic.

I was told that O2 would have to take higher deposits to provide smartphones as replacements. I’d gladly pay a higher deposit to be able to use all the services that I’m currently paying O2 for, rather than being stuck with the relic they gave me.

Now, I suppose I should count myself lucky for getting a replacement phone at all – as my colleague Jen was less fortunate…

Jen’s non-existent replacement phone

When I heard Aniela’s story, I nodded along with a sympathetic smile. My Samsung smartphone was also malfunctioning, which was frustrating as it was just months old.

I called T-Mobile to let the company know, and it offered two options. The first was having a ‘silver bag’ sent to my house so I could send my phone in the post. The second was to go into one of its branches, receive a courtesy phone and have one of their staff send the phone off for me. I chose the second option because, like Aniela, I needed a replacement.

However, it simply wasn’t to be. I headed to my local T-Mobile store, where I was told they didn’t have any spare loan phones. I was also told that any phone I did get would be a basic text-and-call only model. Considering I wasn’t going to receive any reimbursement for the time apart from my phone, I felt pretty put out.

So I decided to try another T-Mobile store. This store didn’t have a loan phone either, but as my patience was wearing thin, I decided to send my phone off anyway. However, this wasn’t to be either, as the ‘computer said no’. The assistant informed me that he’d sent off ‘loads of phones’ that morning and was none the wiser as to why it wouldn’t work with me. His manager said I’d simply have to try again another day.

Frustrated and deflated, I called T-Mobile again and asked for a silver bag. I received the bag, sent off the phone and received my phone back in full-working order approximately two weeks later. T-Mobile made no apologies, gave no refund and the staff made me feel like they were doing me a favour.

Have you had any similar experiences? What do you expect from a replacement phone? Would you be willing to leave a higher deposit to get a phone similar to yours?


It depends whether what the contract has to say about a courtesy phone. If there is no provision for this, then being loaned an older model should be welcomed and not criticised.

When I was working I was careful to select an insurance company that would guarantee a loan car if I had an accident. Though I never needed this, it was a reassurance to know that I was covered.


I wonder what the evidence is for saying “most people today have smartphones”. Perhaps in metropolitan areas but not in rural areas. My nearest mobile phone network shops are 25 miles away in Norwich. Luckily, plain vanilla telephones rarely malfunction – the availability of a signal is the variable factor.


Hi Wavechange – I’ll have to admit that I don’t know if my phone contract contains a clause referring to courtesy phone provisions in the event of a breakdown. I could even be pushed to agree with you that it’s good of them to offer a courtesy phone under these circumstances, but as you can see from my post, I couldn’t get my hands on one and they made no effort to help me obtain one.

In my mind, regardless of what the contract says, I pay a lot of money for my smartphone contract – which I know is largely to pay off the high ‘cost’ of my handset. So, if my handset doesn’t work and is taken away, shouldn’t it be a basic courtesy of the phone company to provide a replacement or some kind of recompense? After all, I didn’t break my phone – it was simply faulty.


Thanks Jennifer. It was Aniela’s comments that provoked my reply. I take your point.

Perhaps the phone companies could agree standard practice on courtesy phones for those on contracts.

My impression is that mobile phones are about the most unreliable products on the market. It’s hardly surprising considering how some treat them. On the other hand, perhaps they should be designed to take a bit of abuse.


When I bought my new ‘phone on a contract with O2 I received a ‘phone call shortly after, encouraging me to recycle my old ‘phone, which had internet access, e-mail etc.

My new ‘phone started to malfunction after a week or so, but at that point I thought that it was just a problem with settings. However, it was sent off for repair, and I was offered the most basic handset possible as a replacement. As I hadn’t parted with my old ‘phone, I was able to use this instead. My new ‘phone was returned after a couple of weeks, with the same fault as it was sent off with, and was eventually replaced.

When a new ‘phone is faulty, I really do think that it would be reasonable to get a courtesy ‘phone that enables you to continue using what you pay for in your contract. And I can’t tell you have upset I would have been if I had allowed myself to be persuade to part with my old ‘phone for a few pounds!


That makes sense, but if the company does not already do this, they will have a valid reason to raise charges to cover the cost of the extra service. Most people are not very happy when companies increase charges during a contract. Look at all the recent discussion that has led to the Which? Fixed Means Fixed campaign.

Maybe this is something to look for when you take out your next contract. You will not be the only one who wants a decent courtesy phone when theirs is away for repair, but expect to pay for this service.


Recently I took my not-so-smart phone with a broken screen to the Orange shop. The screen had stopped working but wasn’t cracked. As it’s half-and-half touchscreen/keypad operated it was unusable. It’s worth about a tenner. Orange offered to replace it at a cost to me of £80.
I have bought a temporary £15 replacement from Tesco. My plan is to get an early upgrade but not through Orange, through Phones 4 U at no additioanl cost to myself apart from a couple of extra pounds a month data allowance.

Nedludd says:
15 October 2012


I can’t help thinking we’re letting these (very highly profitable) companies off the hook a little lightly here! Surely when they sell you a contract they are selling you a commitment to provide that service, the phone which forms part of that contract being a part of that service, From the moment the contract starts to the moment it ends. It is outrageous that they should be allowed to get away with still charging for a service (the handset is an integral part of the service) which they are not providing. In turn, this means free repairs and servicing, FOR THE LIFE OF THE CONTRACT, as of right, with refunds for any time the phone isn’t working as of right. Anything less is quite simply a ripoff!