Rejecting a Faulty Phone: What to Do and How to Get Your Money Back

by - Last Updated on March 22, 2019

Buying a mobile phone, whether from a retailer or through a mobile contract, is a hefty investment. With top end phones costing hundreds of pounds, you're likely to be spending a fair proportion of your monthly salary on a handset. So what happens if that investment doesn't pan out? The recent Samsung Galaxy Note 7 scare has only served to bring attention to the fact that tech doesn't always work as advertised. What do you do if you receive a faulty handset? How do you get your money back? That's what we're here to find out.

The Consumer Rights Act

Before we get into specifics, let's take a look at the law. As a consumer, you're protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This replaced earlier legislation, most notably the old Supply of Goods and Services Act. As a part of this law, anything that you buy must be:

  • Of satisfactory quality: i.e. not damaged and not faulty
  • Fit for purpose: i.e. able to do the job it is supposed to do
  • As described: i.e. goods must match any description you've been shown or any model you've been given

Section 9 of the Consumer Rights Act specifically states these things. So if you get a faulty mobile, for whatever reason, this is the law that will back you up! This law protects you in essence for the first six months of your purchase…

Exception: Phones Older than Six Months

We'll get to what to do with faulty new phones in a second, but first know this: under the Consumer Rights Act once the phone you have purchased/been given is older than six months old, then it is your responsibility to prove that something was faulty with the phone before that six month period was up. This can be tough to prove, though an engineer's report will help if necessary. You'll need to pay for that report yourself though, and you're likely to get a lot of hassle in the process, meaning it might not be worth it in terms of time and money. Your best bet is to report the fault when it occurs, rather than waiting, in order to prevent these problems.

Where Does Your Phone Come From?

The first step of this process is knowing how you got your hands on your phone in the first place since the procedure will be a little different depending on where your phone was purchased. In general, you either got your phone through a mobile operator or through a retailer. The purchase of second-hand goods, older phones that were bought through Craigslist and the like, is not covered by this act. If you believe you were duped in a second-hand purchase the likely recourse is going to be small claims court, and your first step should be to locate your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor for more help.

For Phones from Mobile Operators

If you got your phone as part of a mobile phone contract, then your case should be directed towards your mobile operator. In most cases, you'll be entitled to a new phone or free replacement, though specifics vary a little by the operator. Check out the returns part of the terms of service in your contract to find out more. You'll find most major operators have this online:

Simply call up the customer service number for your operator, and go from there. As long as you are within that first six month period, things should proceed smoothly. However, be warned that outside the first six months things may be more complicated, and once the duration of your contract has finished (whether that's 12, 18, or 24 months) then you're unlikely to get much help. Most mobile operators will argue that a device is “fit for purpose” if it lasts for the contract length, beyond that they will almost always do nothing.

For Phones Purchased Independently

A phone bought from a retailer means that it's the retailer itself that's responsible. For example, if you bought an iPhone from Carphone Warehouse, then you'll need to take up your case with Carphone Warehouse, not with Apple or your operator. Again, this requires contacting customer service for the retailer in question, though with high street stores you can usually go into the store itself to make a complaint. And again, this is most effective when you're within six months of the purchase date. Older than that and you're going to have to prove that the fault is in the phone and that you didn't cause it.

The retailer should be your first port of call, but should you also have a manufacturer warranty on your device you can check into this too. If you're having difficulties dealing with the retailer, it may be easier to go to the manufacturer if you're under warranty, though for the most part, a reputable retailer will deal with the warranty and manufacturer for you.

And What If It Doesn't Work?

If you try going through the operator or the retailer without any luck, and you believe yourself to be in the right, then you still have another avenue. With mobile phone companies, this is easier. Every mobile service provider is required to belong to either CISAS or Ombudsman Services: Communication. Both of these are ombudsmen who will help negotiate between you and the mobile operator. As long as you are not at fault (if you are you may be required to pay some compensation), then both services are free. You'll need to check the website of your mobile operator to find out which of the two services they're registered with. This ONLY concerns mobile operators that have a mobile service as well as phones!

If a retailer is not responding, then the issue gets a little more complicated. If you bought your phone on a credit card, then you may have recourse with your credit card company. Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, your credit card company is equally responsible for the purchase, along with the retailer. So try calling the customer service number for your credit card company.

If you didn't buy with a credit card, then, unfortunately, your only recourse is going to be taking the retailer to court. This is time-consuming and expensive, so try everything else first (including contacting head office for the company, don't just deal with a store manager!). If this is your chosen action you should speak with a solicitor or at least the Citizens Advice Bureau. Should you choose to make a claim without help, then the requirements for bringing a case to court are very complicated!