/ Technology

Mobile phone shops aren’t all out to rip us off!

Carphone Warehouse store front

Most of us visit high street shops when we’re looking for a new mobile phone deal, so we went undercover to see whether the advice they give is up to scratch. What’s your experience with mobile phone shop advice?

There are more active mobile phones in the UK than there are people. It’s a stat that’s rolled out time and again to reinforce Brits’ love affair with our mobile. But mobile phone deals are complicated beasts, with lots to think about to ensure you don’t get landed with a dud for a two year stretch.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that Which? research shows nine out of ten of us use mobile phone shops when we’re looking for a new mobile or accessory. This means the advice we get from shop assistants can have a huge influence on whether we end up with the right deal.

Mobile phone shop saints…

Historically, my overriding perception of mobile phone shop advice has been one of suspicion. Perhaps it’s because my job means I hear more horror stories of pressure selling and abysmal customer service than most.

So I was pleasantly surprised when our recent undercover investigation into mobile phone shop advice revealed that not all mobile retailers are out to upsell costly, lengthy and inappropriate deals that disregarded our actual needs.

We mystery-shopped 50 high street mobile shops (five branches each of ten brands) posing as a current PAYG user in need of a new handset and wanting advice on a new deal. Happily, 40 out of the 50 assistants we spoke to gave advice we rated as at least ‘OK’, and often better.

Carphone Warehouse stood out by offering excellent advice in four of the branches we visited, while the fifth was rated good. When we shared the results with Carphone Warehouse, it told us it’s been working hard on a new company-wide initiative called ‘Trust’, which is all about offering genuinely impartial advice to gain consumer trust. It seems to be working.

…and sinners

On the flipside, 10 of the stores recommended deals that were either significantly more expensive than our current spend, or that locked us in to unnecessarily lengthy contracts.

Some managed to combine both of these to push us towards expensive 24 month contracts with far more inclusive usage than we’d ever need. Three chains – 3, Orange and FoneHouse – gave us poor advice in at least two of the five branches we visited.

Doubters will surely cry ‘small sample size’. We’re not claiming our investigation was fully representative of the service stores offer on every visit. But we designed our scenario to be representative of a real life predicament – as a relatively low mobile user, should you stay with PAYG, or switch to contract? Even two poor recommendations out of a hundred visits would have been two too many, in my opinion.

The advisers we spoke to had the opportunity to shine by asking all the right questions, offering good explanations, analysing our usage levels and outlining the pros and cons of different tariffs. And some did just that. But others fell well short, sticking to the stereotype of a pushy mobile salesperson out to upsell at all costs.

The mix of advice we received – even from different staff from the same chain – shows that, for many retailers, there’s still more work to do to offer customers a consistently great experience. But it also shows that we shouldn’t resign ourselves to poor advice – it’s always worth getting a second opinion if you’re uncertain.

What great or poor experiences have you had in mobile phone shops, and what do you think they could do better?


OK, probably not the shops, but the networks certainly are.

pickle says:
28 June 2011

I bought my mobile from Carphone Warehouse – no trouble at all, and I got the phone I wanted”

Went into my local phone shop – simply wanted to change to a Pay as you go sim card – as my mobile phone use was one call a month or less (so cost £15 a call) – they offered a new basic (no camera – no internet) phone – PAYG – all for £14 – I repeat £14!. I went home a happier richer man.

Be careful if your phone is on the Vodafone network. You need to make a call every 30 days or it will be disconnected.

I keep a PAYG phone in the car for use in emergencies and occasional use. Vodafone did reconnect my phone but I now want to find out which network currently allows the longest period of inactivity.

Tracey says:
29 June 2011

I am not suprised that orange featured in the poor advice category, some of their stores are still describing their internet as unlimited!!!!! When you ring them up to test what they say akin to the store no matter how lay it on thick that the phone data wise might get hammered as going to teenager and wanted protection from no unexpected data bills as in unlimited reassurance meant no bills, they kept not mentioning the fair usage policy. When I asked them on three occasions why they did no mention it one replied after hearing a pin drop, that he had never known anyone exceed 500mb!!!!!!! The second said as long as not on it for ten hours everday that you could use as much as you wanted, but tune changed when I said what is the fair usage!!!!!! and the third who also did not mention it then argued that they legally had to describe the data which he was meaning 500mb in that instance, as had to be described as unlimited.

I told all three they were misleading and that were they not aware even orange had removed the word unlimited from its marketing and they could not reply as well had nowt to say.

Ceo office of ornage during my mission to cancel the contracts, said you should not trust verbally what told in an ornage store. I replied are you aware of what you just said being that you are the ceo office and she said yes!!!!!!!

Dont think she should have said that as when told her the call was recorded she got annoyed with me it felt.

Orange helpers on facebook to this replied of course you should be able to trust any orange rep, in so many words, so shocking that ceo office does not feel the same……..

I say to anyone for aide de memoir like me record calls, because when a company plays hard ball that you are so in the wrong and it was not said etc…..you can offer them a transcript of the call and offer them to listen to it for themselves!!!!!!!!!

My contract was cancelled but they admitted no fault. I am not too fussed about the fault aspect as I got what I politely all along requested xx

ConnedbyCarPhone says:
29 June 2011

I am so surprised by this report as my experience was a bit different. Bought a phone from Carphone Warehouse and fell for the con trick where I was told that I will get a £5.00 off every month when you send in your monthly bill… never saw a penny of that… tried couple of time but it was total waste of time as shop advisers keep telling me to go to the shop that sold the phone…. and so on…. some of these advisers even gave me wrong address to contact… may be they have changed their tactics.

However, I guess I will never be able to recover my loss from Carphone Warehouse… being conned is such a nasty experience!!

took a contract out with carphone warehouse 23/11/16 despite numerous emails phone calls 6 visits to branch informed[email] today 5/12/16 there is a technical issue needless to i have cancelled the contract if past history is anything to go by i keep my fingers crossed

Can you recommend a shop that actually has phones that turn on. Most of them just show you a dead machine so there is no way to check the functionality except buy the phone (hundred of pounds over the life of a smartphone contract).

That’s a good question. I believe O2 shops let you turn on the phones and play with them. That’s where I went first to try phones out, before looking for other/better deals for the same phone elsewhere.


Roger C says:
1 July 2011

I needed a new phone recently, and after suffering information overload from the internet I went to my nearest phone shop which happens to be Carphone Warehouse. I explained I was a Tesco PAYG user and needed a phone that I could put my current SIM into. After showing me an LG phone which seemed to fit the bill, he said that I would probably get it cheaper from Tesco, which turned out to be true. I was (and remain) impressed by his honesty in foregoing a sale to save me money (the phone was admittedly at the budget end of the scale). This seems to bear out the findings of Which?

this is possibly because ther was no profit in it for them.

Martin Lyons says:
1 July 2011

I would endorse your findings regarding Carphone Warehouse. Having said that I did find a disparity between 2 branches on the same street in Cardiff. I visited both and dealt at the one who seemed to be most genuinely keen to ensure I chose the right phone and tarriff as I am a pay monthly customer. Overall I have no qualms with Carphone Warehouse and will not hesitate in visiting the same branch when I next upgrade.

Rowland says:
3 July 2011

I bought an iPhone from my local Carphone Warehouse a year ago. When I refused to buy their insurance (about £11/month) the manager became quite unpleasant and would have intimidated me into taking the insurance if I had not already done some research and decided not to buy insurance.

I can only assume that these managers get commission on insurance sales and don’t like customers who think before they buy.

Peter Webster says:
6 July 2011

I’m a quite mature male, computer literate but smartphone ignorant!
Tried all the local phone shops, having done quite a lot of research on the web, needing to choose between Android & iPhone, and the various phones.
Response of shop’s assistants varied, from the openly-contemptuous to earnestly-helpful. Visits made on Sundays, or at lower-pressure times.
The Contemptuous – Orange – 50+ male assistant, who should have known better, who clearly thought I shouldn’t be out without a zimmer frame – just wanted to show off – didn’t think I would cope with such a complex device – I walked out.
Similar, Phones4U – rather smarmy young men who again thought I was a time waster
T-Mobile – beautiful girl assistant – absolute stunner – but no idea of the smartphones.
At the other end of the spectrum, 3/Three were excellent and took trouble to share their knowledge, an amusing double act.
Carphone, a young lad who again took me seriously, and had good info.
Best, only slightly better, were O2 – met two guru, a week apart, who took trouble and let me play with the iPhone & the Samsung Galaxy2.
Eventually bought the latter. I have since been back to have advice from a guru, and was given advice
It’s a good idea to have the details of all the contracts available BEFORE going to a shop. You need to be able to adopt a positive manner.

Stella says:
10 July 2011

Sent for 02 mobile phone on line never received it when I phoned I was put from piller to post, so gave up, still never got phone had to buy from a shop

Kaye says:
18 October 2011

Our company was mis-sold through a company who claimed to be from Orange called Geko, they put us on a tarrif that meant Geko would earn the most commission and we ended up with excessive phone bills of around £500 per month. When I asked Orange to do the honourable thing and release us from our contract- or right the wrong, they basically said that we were tied into a contract until July 2012 and that it wasnt them that sold us the plan but Geko who have now ceased trading. Surely Orange MUST carry the can for this as Geko was merely a sub-contractor using the Orange brand to procure business for both parties? I would really like to make them accountable for this as I believe they pulled the plug on Geko because they had so many complaints similar to mine. Once they did that Geko could no longer sustain their business and folded. Please help.

are phone shops ripping us off?

i have just come across a scam that many are using.

this relates to overseas travel – usually youre going on holiday.

my brother went into an orange shop to se if his phone was ok for a new zealand holiday.

they said no – he would need a QUAD BAND phone – so he purchased a new phone with its associated bundle out of which orange did very nicely.

in fact any uk dual band phone – which most are – will work perfectly well in new zealand – they are on the same wavebands as the UK eg 900/1800. it is mainly the americas who are on the 850/1900 bands

so were orange lying.

today i went around all the phone shops in my local town enquiring if my dual band phone would be ok in new zealand.

ONLY vodafone and carphone warehouse said yes – very good.

O2 orange tesco and phones4u all said no – i would need a quadband.

O2 were particularly bad – adamant – i continued to press that they made sure and eventually got them to admit the truth.

this isnt rocket science – ten minutes research on the internet lays this myth bare.

these shops know these simple facts and are selling people phones they dont need.

is that a scam ?