Costly contract adds up with no mobile phone
When you buy something under a contract, you'd expect it to last for the whole length of time you've signed up for. But that's not the case with mobile phones, as several Independent readers have discovered to their cost.
With manufacturers' warranties lasting just a year, if an iPhone or Android phone breaks in the 13th month people end up stuck on a contract they can't escape from with a phone that doesn't work.
The latest to fall foul of what appears to be a ludicrous gap in the law is Rose of London (not her real name) who bought an iPhone4S from a branch of Carphone Warehouse in March on a two-year 02 contract costing £35 a month.
"The Wi-Fi stopped working this month, which meant I couldn't access the internet or do any of the things I expected to use the device for," she said. "But when I took it back to the branch, I was told there was nothing they could do because it was a few days after the expiry of the warranty.
"Instead, they just told me it would cost £146 to have the phone repaired. They essentially said I would have to pay that or pay out almost £400 for the remainder of my contract with a virtually useless phone."
Rose is a lawyer, so decided to check her rights. She discovered that a recent EU directive– 1999/44/EC – says all EU countries have to ensure a retailer can be held liable for all "non-conformities" that manifest within two years from delivery.
It states: "A two-year guarantee applies for the sale of all consumer goods everywhere in the EU." That suggests that if something you bought breaks within two years, the retailer should replace it. We already have protection under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 which says goods must be 'of satisfactory quality', and 'fit for purpose'.
However, after six months the onus is on the consumer to show the item they bought failed as a result of a manufacturing fault. And it's this six months' rule that Carphone Warehouse always appears to fall back on.
"They tried to tell me what the law is, which made me really angry," says Rose. "My reading of it is that the EU directive has extended consumers' protection to two years, but that the law is yet to be tested."
When we contacted Carphone Warehouse, the firm agreed to cover the cost of repairing the handset. It told us: "We are sorry to hear that your reader was disappointed with her experience, and as a gesture of goodwill, we have arranged to take a look at the handset with a view to repairing it outside its warranty period."
It's not the first time the firm has adopted that tack when challenged by the Independent. Several readers have turned to our Questions of Cash column for help with the same problem and ended with the same outcome.
In May 2010, MS of Surrey had a useless two-year £25-a-month contract for a broken laptop with a dongle. In May 2012, NS of Edinburgh complained of being stuck in an 18-month O2 contract with a broken iPhone4.
In both cases, Carphone Warehouse offered "gestures of goodwill" to help put the fed-up customers back into the position they would have been if the phone or laptop hadn't developed a fault.
But it shouldn't take the involvement of a national newspaper to make firms treat customers fairly. It seems simple logic that if you take out a contract for a certain period, then it should only be enforced if you can still use it. If a device breaks, then the contract is useless and should be torn up.
But if shops continue to cave in when pressed, the EU directive – which came into force in 2011 – may never be tested. Which could be bad news for those who accept what shops tell them about their rights.
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal
Donald MacInnes: My wasted hours in the retail deserts of Dixons-Carphone
Pension firms must ask consumers more questions, says City Watchdog
Number of serially under-performing investment funds has increased by a fifth, survey reveals
- 2 Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
iJobs Money & Business
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...
Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village