Mobile contract cancellations cause consumer confusion
By Nicole Kobie
Posted on 14 Jul 2010 at 10:11
A consumer rights group is calling for a 14-day return period on mobile phones when networks don't give good enough coverage.
At the moment, if a customer buys a phone and realises the network coverage for their local area isn't good enough, whether or not they can return it depends on which operator and retailer it was purchased from.
Basically, it's very confusing - what they offer is very often different
For example, when buying directly from the operators, 3 will take returns over coverage issues at any time in the contract, Tesco Mobile will take returns within 14 days on any reason, while Orange won't allow any returns, according to research from the Communications Consumer Panel.
But if the phone was bought via a third-party retailer, the picture is different. Buying directly from Virgin, customers have 28 days to return phones for any reason. Pick up that very same phone on the Virgin network from Carphone Warehouse, and customers are given 14 days for returns, while Phones 4U will take handsets back anytime in the contract, but only for coverage issues - see the charts below for the full details.
Confused? That's the problem, says the panel's Anne Bradley. "Basically, it's very confusing ... what they offer is very often different," she told PC Pro. "You can have as many as five or six different variations depending on who you buy it from and what channel, whether you buy it in-store or online."
And if that wasn't trouble enough, many consumers aren't given accurate information about such contract details by sales staff. The panel found three-quarters of mobile operators gave accurate data about cancelling contracts, while just 41% of third-party retailers do.
Bradley said the many variations are "frankly very confusing for sales staff - it's not surprising that they give so many consumers different information".
One way shoppers can avoid the confusion is buying online or via telesales. Not only did the panel's research show telephone-based sales staff gave more accurate information than their shop-based counterparts, but buying over the phone or web also offers a seven-day cooling off period as part of distance selling regulations. "It's not just for coverage, you're covered for any problem that you have," she noted.
The panel wants something similar in place for shopping in store, but doesn't think regulation is the way to go, preferring a voluntary agreement between operators and retailers, hoping the operators and retailers will realise it's "a matter of customer service".
She said that 14-day coverage offer should be a minimum, with retailers and operators able to improve their return policies to differentiate themselves to consumers. "Those that offer a really good returns policy with no limits at all will consider it to be a matter of competitive advantage," she said.
In the meantime, before buying a mobile phone, consumers should ask about return policies and get a copy of it in writing, Bradley advised.
"It's also worth making sure they've checked on the company's mobile coverage map to see whether they could expect to get difficulties or not," she added. "It's no guarantee, but it gives a bit of a picture."
Coverage cancellation policies for operators:
Coverage cancellation policies for handsets bought via third-party retailers:
Is your business a social business? For helpful info and tips visit our hub.
The easier its made to return phones, the more people will return them. So the operators have to sell those phones as second-hand or 'refurbished', making a loss. They will recoup that with higher prices for everyone.
Surely it would be better to send customers away with a 'signal tester' so you can check your home/workplace for coverage, before deciding on a network.
By davidsoap on 15 Jul 2010
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- How to turn off Google Location Tracking
- 20 years of PC Pro: our greatest review mistakes
- 20 years of PC Pro: our first A-List
- Wikipedia's "right to be forgotten" protest hits the wrong note
- 3D printing hits the high street for plastic selfies
- 20 years of PC Pro: What amazed us in our first issue
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office