/ Technology

Recycling mobile phones – it’s not always rewarding

A pile of obsolete mobile phones

There is a rumbling of discontent on the internet. Nothing new there, you may say, but this particular rumble relates to companies who buy old mobile phone handsets. Have you recycled your old phone for cash?

There are plenty of these mobile phone recycling companies out there: Cash4phones, Mazuma Mobile, Envirofone and Fonebank, to name but a few.

These companies quote you a price for your old mobile phone, based on its condition. Once you’ve sent them your phone, they’ll verify the condition and pay you the agreed price. These phones are then ‘recycled’, which usually involves sending them to overseas markets to be sold in places like the Middle East, Africa and South America.

Feeling short-changed

Some of you aren’t happy, however. Check any review site, and you’ll find plenty of complaints about these services. The amount paid out for those old phones is not always quite as generous as first quoted. It seems that in some cases you are sending in your pristine phones, only to find that the company’s valuation differs from your expectations.

We’ve been sent quite a few complaints about these companies, with people telling us that they’ve sent their phones off for an agreed price, only to have the quote lowered once it’s in the hands of the company.

The main reason for reduced valuations seems to be wear and tear, even for phones that owners felt were in a very good condition. While all these companies should send the phone back to you if you don’t agree to their revised quote, you may be charged for the privilege. This has left some people feeling they’re being held to ransom with no option but to accept the lower quote.

Have you used a phone recycling service? Were you happy with the service, or did you receive a lower offer than expected?


I haven’t used a recycling service because I have only possessed two mobile phones in my life. The first one was stolen along with my handbag, and its replacement is the one I still use, a decade on.

If it is so difficult to “recycle” old mobile phones for cash, why don’t we think twice before replacing the ones we’ve got, and if we must replace them, through genuine need or because clever adverts have managed to brainwash us, why not donate our old mobiles to charity? The experience will be more rewarding.

George says:
9 November 2015

Are u mad? Give my old phone to charity that costs £200? Where I could just recycle it for £200? U do the math brainwashed or not, truth is u sounds very very old and u are happy with ur Nokia 3310 but I like my gadgets and keeping up with society It don’t necessary make me brain washed but makes u sound tight af to go buy a new phone.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

David Royle says:
1 November 2012

Yes Cash4phones gave me the runaround recently. The original quote for my Nokia was halved due to ‘excessive wear and tear’ which was manifestly not the case. When challenged the offer was doubled but then I got thephone back and the £8.95 postage charge was made. I complained again but no reply. I am now trying Carphone Warehouse which SEEMS more honest. We’ll see. I gave the other phone away.

Some charity shops are keen to have your old mobiles, there is still a 2ndhand market even for the “old” basic Nokias and any that cant be sold get to sent to a recycling company who pay ( a small amount ) to the charity.

David Royle says:
1 November 2012

Yes mine has gone to help school funds

I’ve still got my first and only mobile ‘phone. It’s analogue and was on the BT (Now O2) network.

When the analogue service was phased out, or arbitrarily switched off as I prefer to put it, I was so relieved that I was once again free from people being able to contact me anywhere and everywhere at any time of my life, that I never bothered to get another.


It does not surprise me that companies will offer very little for a second-hand mobile phone. They will have to provide some sort of warranty if they sell it and take the chance that it has a fault that might not be apparent from a brief inspection.

I have not been lucky with mobile phones and have never had anything worth selling or giving away.

I would never use one of those recycling services, they would never give you market value for your phone. If I ever have a phone to sell, it goes on ebay, and I usually get a good result. It takes a bit more effort to set an auction of course, compared to using a recycling service or poppping in your local CEX shop, but it’s worth the effort in my opinion.

This is especially true of older phones for which recycling services will often give you nothing for them.

However on Ebay or in charity shops they usually make a few £££

Myself and my family have used envirofone and mazuma mobile a couple of times in the last few years and have yet to have a problem. In fact, one phone I was sure would be marked down for wear and tear got approved no problem. Maybe we’re just lucky?

Anthony says:
7 November 2012

I’ve used these companies before, well one of them, Fonebank. It helped to shop around first for the best price. I found them honest and they paid the valuation originally offered with no problems at all.

I always carefully wrapped and protected the phone to make sure it reached them in the same condition it left me and I’m sure this helped.

7 November 2012

I actually have had a very good experience with Carphone Warehouse for another phone, quite the opposite to Cash4Phones: quick and no quibbles. Mind you I don’t know if what I got was true value!!

Tim Butler says:
8 November 2012

The re-cycling of used mobile phones for charity or other causes is a bit misleading.
I don’t know how much research people do on these matters but if you research the re-cycling of used mobile phones, I’m sure you’ll find that the dismantling and recovery of precious metals including gold has quite a lot to do with it.
And before anyone decides to jump up and down about this, just think about what has happened with the price of gold recently and then remember how many “cash for gold” shops have sprung up all over the place.
It’s as bad as those adverts on TV offering cash loans and flashing the interest rates up for a Milli second in a washed out white text that you cant read. If you knew it was 1745% you’d think it was a mistake but I kid you not, that’s the exorbitant rate some of these companies charge and it really annoys me that governments do nothing to protect joe public from these sharks.

Carl Hubbers says:
12 November 2012

Money Saving Expert has a great tool that will tell you which recycling company will pay the most for your old phone.


Once you know who will pay the most it’s worth seeing if you can get any cashback from a site like Quidco http://www.quidco.com/

Steph says:
16 January 2013

DONOT use recyclemysmartphone.com! I was told my HTC one x would be £185 so sent it on 13/12/12. Heard nothing so emailed on 11/1/13 and was told money was on the way! We got £148!!! When I queried this I was told I’d been sent an email with a revised total on 20/12/12, I didn’t!! I would have requested phone back if I had! It says normal wear and tear is acceptable and that’s all my phone had wrong with it!! It’s about the fact they have lied and called me a liar!! After emailing back 18 minutes after getting their email I got an out of office reply!! thanks Daniella Lake, for nothing!! Reporting to trading standards and police tomorrow!!

Craig Bunyan says:
28 January 2013

Hi, did you ever get anywhere with reporting recyclemysmartphone.com

Tim Butler says:
19 November 2013

Any update on the “Daniella Lake” story?
Any replies from recyclemysmartphone?

steph says:
1 February 2013

Craig, I didn’t although I was offered my phone back but it would have cost over £20 to do this So put it down to experience!!

XanderP says:
25 February 2013

Not all cell phone recyclers are scammers. Companies such as http://www.sellmycellphones.com in America claim to only compare the prices on offer from America’s most reputable recyclers so maybe comparison sites are the way forward.

Robert James says:
15 March 2013

I have been using moneyforyourphone.com over the last 4 years. They seem to have consistently offered the best prices for iphones/blackberries and HTC. Their service is smooth and they always fulfill their promise.would highly recommend MFYP

Steve Smith says:
4 April 2013

Cash4phones.co.uk, I was quoted £30.00 for my I Phone 3, the best price of a number of companies. Sent the phone off, received an email to say back of phone had excessive wear and tear on the back (untrue) and revised price was £6 (yes six pounds). They told me I had two choices, accept, or pay £8.95 to get the phone sent back. This charge was not mentioned on the website section on how the deal works (only tucked three clicks away in a ream of Terms and Conditions). I have refused to pay the charge as it was not made clear at point of sale, but, they have not returned my phone. I am going to go to the police, (cannot imagine them helping me) but I am so angry I am going to try.

[This comment has been slightly edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Steve Smith says:
19 November 2013

Exactly the same happened to me, same company, same phone, same quoted price, same lousy revised price. Surely this bunch cannot be allowed to continue to trade like this, why does trading standards not step in and stop this quickly? It has gone on for far too long.

Tim Butler says:
19 November 2013

Any update?

Rebeccles says:
16 April 2013

Cash4phones.co.uk offered £150 for iPhone 4 in perfect condition! Literally not a scratch on it. I have photos of the phone from every angle on the day it was posted. Wrapped in layers of bubble wrap, inside a jiffy envelope, inside the original box ( it could not move and was extremely well padded)

They are now telling me the screen has excessive scratching and are offering me … £32. Absolute joke! I am 100% sure the phone was not scratched.

So now I take £32 or PAY THEM £9 to return my phone which having had dealings with them now I do not trust to return my phone in a sellable condition.

Worst company I have ever dealt with. Do not sell your phone to cash4phones!!!

[This comment has been edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Paul says:
1 July 2013

Exactly the same happened to me and when I now read other reviews, it would appear that cash4phones are not very ethical in their trading

wahidazzlar says:
18 April 2013

Mobilephonerecycling2day offered £42.14 for my used working phone, i get an email saying “its in poor condition” and they’re now offering me £14.14 or to send it back £9.95, it’s ridiculous, i’m more out of pocket than i was before, they don’t even pick up their phone or email me back ffs. Fricking furious!!!

[This comment has been edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Drioz says:
1 May 2013

I can only confirm what wahidazzlar said. Sent a phone to Mobilephonerecycling2day which was valued £59 as working. Once they received it, they offered £21.83 instead because of “excessive wear and tear”, while the phone was perfectly working and had no major scratches. I sold it just because I upgraded to a new one.

Even worse, they never replied to a message sent to them using the form on their website.

Hello everyone, thank you for your comments. We’re looking into mobile phone recycling services. It would be a big help if you had any photos of your phone’s condition before you sent it off. If you do, please send to conversation.comments@Which.co.uk Thanks

MARK says:
29 July 2015

..Also in the last few days Argos has been trumpeted for paying gift vouchers for old handsets to then be ‘recycled’ – Hah, thats a joke – more like ‘refurbished’ and then sold in some far flung African state. I took 4 old handsets, all working & in very good condition – granted, they’re what you may call ‘dumb phones’ from a few years ago, but still worth a few quid on ebay.. A Nokia 3410,5140.3100 and a Samsung handset – What did they offer me by way of vouchers? £0.00. Bottom line here is they’re not interested in recycling, they’re just interested in getting your ‘hi-tech’ gadgets for pennies so a third party can flog them abroad for a profit, otherwise they’d at least give you something for your decade old dumb phone if they were serious about recycling in the first place.Just like alot of ‘green issues’ such as windfarms- making a few people very rich.