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.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

    MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

    Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste