You ask: I bought an iPad from my local Orange phone shop for £90 and agreed to pay £25 per month. I took it home, tried it out and then realised that the contract was for 24 months, which I wasn’t told about.
I phoned the shop the next day to tell them I wanted to return it, explaining that I wasn’t told about the 24-month contract.
I phoned Orange to ask if I could return the iPad and have even offered to give up my deposit which they, and the shop, refused.
Can you give me any advice on where I stand – shouldn’t I be entitled to a cooling off period?
Our telecommunications expert, Ceri Stanaway responds:
What a nightmare! It can completely take the enjoyment out of an exciting new purchase when you discover you haven’t been given the full facts before buying.
There are a couple of points in your query to address. First off, the cooling off period. You’re probably thinking of distance selling regulations, which give you a cooling off period following the purchase of goods and services ‘at a distance’ – such as online, by phone or by mail order.
Unfortunately, you have no legal rights to return unwanted goods or cancel services bought directly in store unless they are faulty – unless this is the case, any automatic rights you have are solely at the retailer’s discretion. Some mobile retailers, including Virgin Media and O2, choose to offer additional return rights – but unfortunately Orange is not one of them at present.
All that said, you may well be covered by a different type of protection since Orange clearly did not give you all the facts to make an informed decision before you purchased your iPad.
Mobile regulator Ofcom has strict rules against mobile service ‘misselling’ – which can comprise any case where a company either provides false information about a mobile product or service, or withholds key information. This can include not giving you the full story on minimum contract terms and penalties which might apply for cancelling early, so is an exact fit for your case. Their rules were put in place in relation to mobile phones, but I think companies would find it difficult to argue that the rules don’t apply to tablets too.
As with all telecoms complaints, the first step to get things sorted is to complain to the company. If the shop you bought your deal in won’t help, escalate it through the company’s official complaints procedure – in Orange’s case, the details are here.
If you get nowhere with the company, you can escalate your complaint to one of the telecoms dispute resolution services after eight weeks – either the Communications Ombudsman Services or the Communications & Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (Cisas). Every mobile operator must belong to one of these schemes (Orange belongs to Cisas).