Buying a mobile phone

Thinking of buying a mobile phone? Problems with your mobile? We’ve included some advice and information below.

Buying a mobile phone can be confusing as there are many different types of deals. Take time to look at what is available and try more than one retail outlet. The same deal may be cheaper with another store.
Be wary of aggressive sales techniques — some salespeople may overwhelm you with the positive side of a deal. Be wary of getting into a deal before you’ve considered all the pros and cons.

There are two types of contract available:

Pay As You Go: This type of contract offers you the option to be in control, as you only need to ‘top up’ when you can afford to. The initial cost can be higher as you need to buy a handset but once you have the phone it’s up to you. If you are on a tight budget, or your finances can be unpredictable, this one is the easier option.

Pay Monthly: This type of contract can often offer a free phone as part of the package but there is usually a minimum monthly payment, whether or not you can afford it, and a minimum term over which you must keep the contract. It can be expensive.

With the Pay Monthly option, up-to-the-minute phones are used to sell a wide range of ‘deals’ which may be misleading if you don’t read the small print carefully. It is very tempting to sign a contract because of the number of services on offer but consider whether a ‘deal’ is offering you things you don’t really need. Some networks also add on an extra monthly charge if you don’t pay your bill by Direct Debit.

It is best to seek advice before making a decision if you are unsure about what you are signing. Once a contract has been signed it can be very difficult or even impossible to cancel and you may end up with a bill you cannot pay.

For more information contact The Advice Centre.

What are my rights?

The Phone

When you buy a mobile phone, it must be:

  • Of satisfactory quality
  • Fit for its purpose
  • As described

If your phone doesn’t meet these standards, your rights depend on how long you’ve had the phone and whether you have had a reasonable chance to check it for faults.

I’ve only had my phone a few weeks/haven’t had a chance to check it
You are probably entitled to a refund for a fault or poor description, or alternatively you may request a replacement.

If the fault is only minor and can easily be put right, it is reasonable to accept a repair. This won’t stop you claiming a replacement or refund if the repair turns out to be unsatisfactory.

I’ve had my phone for longer than a few weeks. 
You are probably still entitled to a repair or replacement. A repair should be carried out within a reasonable period of time and without causing you significant inconvenience. Any repair should restore it to a satisfactory condition. If this does not happen, you are entitled to a replacement or compensation. This could be a sum of money or the cost of having somebody else repair the phone.

Please note: You have none of these rights if you have not used or looked after your phone in line with any instructions. Fair wear and tear is not a fault.

If the phone cannot be replaced or repaired economically, you are entitled to a refund. The trader may make a reduction from the price you paid to allow for the use you have had from the phone.
If you are out of pocket in any other way, you may be entitled to compensation over and above the price of the phone.

The trader must sort out your problem, not the manufacturer.
Remember, if you are entitled to a refund, replacement, repair or compensation, it is the trader who must sort out your problem. The trader cannot tell you to go back to the manufacturer or to claim through a guarantee or warranty.

The Network

When you buy a mobile phone, in order to make or receive calls you will need to be connected to a network. You may do this by having a line rental contract or through buying a voucher that will allow you access to the network. At this point, you will enter into a contract with the Network Service Provider.

If the service hasn’t been carried out at all, or totally fails to meet the way it was described, you may be entitled to a refund, compensation or both.

If there is a fault on the network or SIM card, you are probably entitled to compensation.

Important points to bear in mind:

  • Read the terms and conditions of your agreement with the Network Service Provider
  • You have no rights if you simply change your mind
  • However, you have seven working days (the ‘cooling-off’ period) to cancel a contract for goods ordered by telephone, mail order, email or fax, except for goods that are made to order
  • If you choose a contract phone rather than a pre-pay phone, you will be committed to using a certain network, at a certain tariff for a minimum period of time without any legal right to change tariff or cancel
  • Your rights cannot be taken away by terms and conditions written into a notice, receipt, contract, warranty or guarantee

What should I do?

If you determine that there is a problem with the phone you have purchased, consider the following:

  • Check there really is a fault — read any instructions very carefully. Check that the phone is charged and, if you can, check the strength of the signal
  • Be certain that the fault was not caused by misuse, an accident, normal wear and tear or by not following the instructions
  • If you can, collect together all the documents that came with the phone — including any contract, guarantee, instructions, leaflets etc
  • If you have a contract phone, check your terms and conditions. If you have a pre-pay phone, read the terms and conditions booklet supplied with the phone
  • If there is a problem, contact the trader straight away and report it
  • If the fault is with the phone, you should contact the shop where you bought it
  • If the fault is with the network or SIM card, you should contact the Network Service Provider

Source: Advice Guide – self help from Citizens Advice