/ Technology

The mysterious case of a cracked Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung Galaxy S3

If your mobile phone screen developed a crack, whose responsibility would it be? Yours, the retailer’s or the manufacturer’s? We think you shouldn’t be left out of pocket for something that’s not your fault…

Picture the scene. You’ve just bought a brand new mobile phone – a pretty snazzy smartphone, by all accounts. Then you notice a mysterious hairline crack on the screen. You haven’t dropped or manhandled it. Yet, your mobile phone company is refusing to offer you an exchange or refund. Seems a little rubbish doesn’t it?

Return to sender?

However, this was the reality for one Which? member who noticed hairline cracks on the screen of his brand new Samsung Galaxy S3. When he returned his faulty phone to his local Orange shop within 24 hours of buying it, exchange was refused on the basis that the phone must have left the store intact.

Finally, after lots of complaining in person and on the phone, Orange has now offered to refund the cost of the cracked Samsung Galaxy S3. Also, as a gesture of goodwill Orange is cancelling his 24-month contract. Orange conceded that he should have been given the opportunity to inspect the phone after it was handled by retail staff. It has also offered £20 compensation for the inconvenience caused.

So who is responsible for faulty products? The Sale of Goods Act stipulates that goods purchased must be of satisfactory quality. If they aren’t, the retailer will be in breach of contract.

Your rights for faulty goods

If you buy a product that turns out to be faulty, you can choose to reject it, as long as you do so within a reasonable time frame. That means you can give it back and get your money back. If you prefer, or if more than a reasonable amount of time has passed since your purchase, you can ask for either a repair or replacement. 

It’s the seller’s responsibility to prove that a faulty product was damaged or misused by you if the problem arises within six months of buying the product.

If you’re in a similar situation, don’t forget your three Rs – rejection, refund and replacement. Make sure you’re not left out of pocket for a fault that is not your own.

Has your smartphone ever developed a hairline crack? What did your mobile phone provider tell you if you tried to return it?

M. T. T. says:
13 December 2012

Open to abuse by customers who do in fact mishandle their device – regardless of how long they have had it.


With any new product it is important to check for physical damage and then to check that it is in full working order. If not, it must be rejected promptly. I have never heard of anyone having difficulty in exchanging a new product, other than a car.

Customers deserve protection, but so do retailers and manufacturers.

The Galaxy S3 has a very large screen, making it much more vulnerable to damage than an old mobile with a tiny screen. It would be relevant to know what advice Samsung give regarding how it should be treated. If this has been followed and the screen breaks then the product is – in my mind – not of satisfactory quality.

On another Conversation there have been many reports of faulty Kindle ebook readers and it seems likely that at least some of the failures are due to mechanical damage. One person took their Kindle apart and saw evidence of fracture behind the screen.

It does seem that manufacturers have been too keen to provide ultra-thin products that may not be sufficiently durable for everyday use. Perhaps it is time for independent experts to assess and test products to see if they are really too fragile to be practical.

If there is any doubt about whether the customer has damaged a product or whether it was not sufficiently durable, the customer should be given the benefit of the doubt.

I have read that the replacement for the S4 could be ‘unbreakable’, so maybe Samsung realises that the S3 is not up to the job. Any company that does market a product as unbreakable could be setting a challenge and might have to revise its description.

steve morrell says:
24 July 2013

I have just requested that Samsung return my Galaxy S 3 l t e after they decided that my screen had cracked through miss-use .I am not prepared to pay £125 for a piece of glass that has broken through a design fault . I have spoken to a number of people on this issue who have experienced the same problem . One of those people manages a mobile phone shop and has stated that he has never known so many disappointed Samsung galaxy S 3 owners and is constantly approached by customers with broken screen problems . When I contacted Samsung directly to inquire about my screen I was told they have never received a complaint . Personally I think they need to wake up to what could end up being a costly problem . The phone shop manager told me that they are aware of the problem and that they try and steer their customers towards I phones or the new Nokia . He feels that if Samsung own up to the problem the floodgates will open . Personally ,I am going back to an I phone and the S 3 can go in the bin . My wife also runs a Galaxy ( not the s 3 ) but on termination of her contract she too will be changing manufacturers .The phone itself is a really decent unit but it is by no means perfect . Mine was kept in a leather case and as a 63 year old feel that I have been totally responsible during my ownership . I also have a 3 year old” I ” phone 3 g s which is in mint condition and going back into service . Take a look on e bay and see how many people are selling s 3″s with broken glass screens. My fault started with a small discolouration on the bottom of the screen and every time I picked the phone up to use it another crack appeared until eventually the whole screen was cracked just about everywhere . Get your act together Samsung and sort this out !!!!!!!


I think the important thing is that consumers are aware of their rights if they find themselves in similar situations. It can be tricky to know what the law dictates with faulty goods, and greater knowledge of your rights under the Sale of Goods Act can mean you’re not left out of pocket for things that are not your fault. Knowing your rights as a consumer makes you more powerful as an individual, which is no bad thing.

Retailers and manufacturers do have rights too and beyond six months, it’s up to you to prove that the problem was there when you received the goods even if it has taken until now to come to light. But within a reasonable time frame the onus is on the seller to prove the fault was not present at the point of sale.

There does seem to be a trend for super-thin phones these days – I remember my first one was chunky with an aerial! Internet access was but a distant dream…but at that point I think my main criteria was whether I could play Snake on it.


I agree that consumers need to know their rights. They also need to have the courage to face up to sales assistants and managers who may try to deny that they have rights. I don’t often shop in Currys but I can give several examples of unsatisfactory treatment regarding recently purchased products. My personal favourite was when I was told that the Sale of Goods Act did not apply to them. 🙂 On another occasion Currys would not accept the return of a Miele vacuum and insisted that I contacted the manufacturer. I did and received excellent treatment, knowing well that it was the responsibility of Currys to sort out the problem. My only success with Currys has been to get a different manager to swap a mobile, after their repeated failure to fix a problem on a phone that I had first returned within a few weeks of purchase and had been kept for emergency use in the glove box of my car.

As I see it, the consumer effectively has a hassle-free guarantee for six months and many retailers will deal with problems for a full year or however long the guarantee lasts for. After that, the chance of having a faulty product repaired or replaced is very slim, from what I have been told by friends and my own observations.

Which? often mentions the Sale of Goods Act but I have not seen any advice on how to get an expert’s report to provide evidence that a fault was present at the time of manufacture, and how much an expert’s report is likely to cost. In many cases the fault will not have been present at the time of manufacture but due to fragile construction (that could apply to the Galaxy S3) or overheating (a likely cause of screen problems with thin Sony TVs).

The best way to protect the consumer is to push for longer warranties and to promote companies that offer them. The best way to protect the manufacturer is to incorporate abuse detectors in their products. For example, moisture detectors have been included in mobile phones for years.

I don’t know about the Snake game. My mobile is probably not advanced enough. 🙂


Blimey, saying the Sales of Goods Act doesn’t apply is definitely not the case!

As far as expert opinions are concerned, there are a couple of things to think about. Whatever expert you use you choose to use, you should ask your expert to include the following:

what the problem is
what the cause of the problem is (i.e. bad workmanship, inherent defect, faulty components, etc)
what needs to be done to put the matter right
how much this will cost
if relevant, photographs, diagrams, plans, etc

Also, try to keep the cost of the report below £200, which is the maximum that you can recover for the cost of an expert’s report in the small claims court. Hope that helps!


Thanks for this information, Florence. I will keep a note of it for future reference.

I have never tried to get an expert opinion and I don’t know anyone who has. Even getting electronic goods repaired is very difficult. I had a TV with an intermittent fault and eventually found a local repairer. They had my TV for nine months, apart from short periods when I was given it back with the same fault. I even discovered that they had not replaced a part mentioned on their invoice, which they claimed was ‘a mistake’. I still had to pay about £35 for their inspection, but got most of my money back. Trading Standards was not interested because they did not have other complaints about the company. I did what almost everyone else does and bought a new TV and had the old one recycled.

If I can’t get someone to fix a TV, I wonder where I could get an expert to provide evidence that something like a Samsung Galaxy S3 has a design fault. If they decided I had damaged the phone, it would be a very expensive way of finding out.

I don’t believe that the Sale of Goods Act is affording us the protection we need.

David says:
21 June 2013

Thanks for your post i have successfully had t-mobile replace a cracked screen samsung galaxy note 2 with a brand new handset. All reading this do use your rights as it really helps. I got a note 2 3 months ago and omled screen cracked & words wrote in here i used and now t-mobile is replace all kit got free.

Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, any product you buy from a retailer has to be of satisfactory quality and if the fault develops within six months the law assumes that the fault was inherent in the phone unless the retailer can actually prove otherwise. The retailer can choose whether to give you a replacement, arrange for a repair or refund you, but they have a duty to do one of these. Often retailers will try to pass the buck but it pays to be persistent.

If you are having a problem with the retailer, I would suggest you write to them and say you are exercising your right to have the faulty phone repaired or replaced – http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/action/letter-to-complain-about-a-faulty-mobile-phone-/

Another possible option is to claim under your credit card provider if you paid by credit card. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Acct the credit card provider is jointly liable with the retailer so you can write to the credit card provider outlining the fault.