Common Complaint - Services & Hardware

Faulty mobile telephones

Summary of the issue

A common complaint to TDR relates to faulty mobile telephones.

Usual positions of the parties

The usual position taken by the customer is to advise TDR that their mobile phone is faulty, and that they consider the Scheme Member should replace or reimburse costs for that faulty product. Typically the customer will state that they are unaware of any abnormal event which would have contributed to the equipment failure or damage. The customer may take issue with being required to pay charges before the Scheme Member will assess their mobile phone for damage.

The Scheme Member will normally submit to TDR that the phone in question has been damaged as a consequence of misuse by the customer, such as exposure to liquids or rough treatment, thereby voiding any warranty. The Scheme Member may refer to a technician's assessment of the mobile phone.

TDR's view of the issue

There are two broad legal considerations which TDR will consider. These relate to the protection afforded to the customer either by warranty, or under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993.

The warranty will typically set out a fixed period which the Consumer will have the protections of having the manufacturer or seller standing behind the product. For example, replace or repair a faulty product within a set timeframe. The Consumer Guarantees Act sets out a range of protections which will automatically apply to a retail sale of a product. These include a requirement that the product (phone) be of an acceptable quality and fit for purpose. TDR will consider any evidence available which provides an indication as to how the mobile phone had been treated by the customer, in determining whether it was of acceptable quality, and fit for purpose.

TDR notes that a seller's warranty will not replace the protections available under the Consumer Guarantees Act. However, TDR recognises that a seller and business customer can contract out of the Consumer Guarantees Act protections.

With regard to water-damaged mobile phones, TDR does not consider that a mobile phone treated with reasonable care should experience difficulties with moisture. If TDR were to accept that a mobile phone had not been exposed to liquid water (compared with humidity), if the phone was determined as damaged from liquid, TDR may find that mobile phone not fit for purpose.

TDR does not consider it is possible to determine with precision what life span should be expected from a mobile phone. Such consideration would depend on the build quality of the product, and how that phone was treated. However, it would be expected that a mobile phone should last for at least 1 - 2 years if treated with reasonable care. TDR will also take into consideration the term of any fixed term contract under which the mobile phone was supplied.

TDR does not consider there is any ability for a Scheme Member to require the payment from a customer of a fee, prior to assessing a mobile phone for damage.