If you've had problems with your mobile phone or mobile contract, you may be due some money back. In this guide to mobile phone rights, Resolver covers the main things that can go wrong with your contract, handset, or data plan. Have you been overcharged, received bad service or been affected by poor reception? Find out about your rights and use Resolver to submit your claim for free.
Who is your issue with?
When it comes to mobile phone contracts or pay-as-you-go mobiles, your consumer rights come from two main places.
If you're dealing with a damaged phone or want to cancel your contract, your rights will come from the Consumer Rights Act and the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
The Consumer Rights Act sets out the way you should expect to be treated by a company when you buy their products or services. This includes mobile phones!
The rest of your rights come from the Consumer Contract Regulations. These set out what you should expect from a contract for a service – and give you rules for cancelling a contract if it doesn’t deliver.
Worried about cancellation fees or confused about your data plan? Read on to find out exactly how your rights work on a day-to-day basis.
I'm being charged more than I was told I would!
Mobile providers should make any costs clear to you at the point of sale. If you feel they have not done this, you may be able to make a claim! If you feel that you’ve been misled, you should consider launching an appeal using Resolver.
First, we recommend that you exercise your right under the Data Protection Act 1998 to request copies of any recorded conversations you’ve had with your mobile provider. This will provide you with evidence that you will need.
We advise you to always ask for your offers in writing. Some mobile providers have been known to contract out phone sales to third-party sales teams. In these cases, the sales representative may not always present information regarding the contract completely accurately.
My contract has gotten more expensive mid-contract!
Unfortunately, if you find that your mobile contract has suddenly gotten more expensive and you’re within your contract’s minimum term, you won’t be able to leave without incurring charges. Mobile contracts often have price changes written into them – these normally account for inflation, but some companies (including O2) indicate that the cost of your contract may increase above the national rate of inflation.
I want to cancel my contract!
If you want to cancel your mobile phone contract, you can use Resolver to get in touch with your mobile provider. If you’ve entered into a contract as part of a distance sale (either online, by mail order, or over the phone), you have a 14-day “cooling-off” period in which you can cancel your contract without incurring a cancellation fee. Your mobile provider must refund any payments made if you cancel within this 14-day period. If you find that you have to send back any equipment, the trader cannot charge you a fee for accepting any returned goods.
I've been charged for a service I previously cancelled!
Contact your mobile provider via Resolver if you notice you have been billed for a service you have cancelled. If it is their error, you should ask for a refund – check your service agreement carefully, though, as there may be cancellation charges attached (which the new bill may represent). If it is a new account, some providers allow you to cancel your account within 28 days without incurring any charges.
Split-tariff contracts and credit rating
Certain providers (such as O2) offer split-tariff contracts. These contracts are (as the name suggests) split into two payments – one for your airtime and one for your handset. While the airtime payments are a typical transaction, the handset payments constitute repayment of a loan! That means that you are being provided with the handset as part of a credit agreement that will affect your credit rating. Our advice is to always check the terms and conditions before signing up to a split-tariff contract. If you find that you’re missing handset repayments, this may harm your credit rating.
When you take out a contract in-store, you have 14 days to cancel your contract (starting the day after the sale).
Mobile contracts and credit checks
Since mobile companies are essentially giving you a loan for your handset, they’ll perform a credit check. For more credit check information, see our credit score guide
Data roaming lets you use the internet while abroad. In many cases, however, data roaming can result in unexpectedly high bills. Always check your network provider’s rules concerning data roaming before you travel abroad.
As of June 2017, data roaming charges within the EU have been dropped. The new rules mean that network providers charge the same rates for calls, texts and data in the EU as they would in the UK.
However, UK network providers differ in the number of countries they will be applying the new rules to. Variations will also occur where customers are on pay-as-you-go plans. You will still be liable to additional charges if you exceed your contractual data allowance.
If you believe you have been unfairly charged for data usage, you should contact your mobile provider through Resolver.
Direct debit payments
If you find that your direct debit payments are not being taken by your operator on a regular basis, you should inform them using Resolver as soon as possible – you could be building up a series of arrears on your account that could adversely affect your credit rating.
I didn't receive my final bill. Does this mean I still have to pay?
Even if you haven’t received your final bill, you will most likely still have to pay! Contact your provider and check that they have the correct address registered for you. Check your email account and spam box as well – they may have filtered out any relevant emails sent to you. If you have any queries, Resolver can direct your questions to the relevant contact.
Lost, stolen or damaged phones
My mobile phone has been lost/stolen
Having your mobile phone stolen can be an upsetting, frustrating and sometimes costly incident. If you are the victim of mobile phone theft you should contact the police (phone 101) and obtain a crime reference number, which will aid any insurance claim. You should also contact your provider if your phone is lost or stolen, in order to have it ‘blocked’ as quickly as possible. This is important to do quickly, as commonly mobile phones will be stolen for the purposes of making long-distance telephone calls, which you will be forced to pay for if you have not informed your mobile phone company that your phone has been stolen.
Can you claim on your insurance?
You should contact your insurer immediately as some companies have strict time limits in which you can start your claim. Read your policy small print regarding theft as there may be restrictions, for example if your phone was stolen from a vehicle it would need to have been locked away out of sight in a “secure luggage area”. Some insurers refuse to pay out for theft if a phone is pick-pocketed while at a concert, for example, saying that this doesn't count as robbery as no force was used.
Policies vary greatly in their level of cover. Be aware that you may not be covered during the first 14 or 21 days of the policy. You may be required to pay an excess on your claim and this is often much higher for smartphones or iPhones.
Another option for claiming for loss of a phone is to check your home contents insurance policy, if you have one. Some policies include items “away from the home”, although if you make a claim this way your contents insurance renewal premium may rise and you will lose any no-claims bonus that you may have accrued.
In the event that your mobile provider offers to repair your broken handset, it is possible that they may outsource the repairs process to a third-party contractor. There have been numerous reports of some third-party repairs firms refusing to make repairs under warranty. Firms may identify small faults that void the warranty (often claiming that there has been impact damage, water damage, or minor damage to the screen as a result of your actions ) and then demand large sums (often in excess of £200) for repairs. If you refuse this payment, the repair firm may send your phone back to you – in this case, you could be interpreted as having refused your right to the repair offered to you by your phone provider. In theory, this could free them from further obligation to offer you a repair or refund!
We advise that you take time-stamped photos of your phone before you send it for repairs. Make sure that you capture any visible faults or defects – this way you’ll have proof that any damage was caused either in transit or by the repair firm.
If the repair firm begins demanding extortionate sums for repairs (or refuses their duty to repair under warranty), you should immediately contact your mobile provider. Let them know about their contractor’s behaviour. It is their responsibility to manage their contractors – not yours. Resolver will keep a log of any correspondence between you and your mobile provider.
If you are unhappy with your mobile provider’s attempts to resolve the problem, we advise you to use Resolver to contact a telecoms dispute resolution scheme – all mobile providers must belong to one of two telecoms dispute resolutions schemes (CISAS or the Communications Ombudsman Services). You may also be able to file a claim with Trading Standards.
Phone damaged during repairs
If you leave your phone to be repaired, you should expect the repair service to be carried out to a reasonable degree of care and skill. This means that if you come back and find that your phone has been damaged during repairs, you should expect for the damage to be fixed with no cost to you – or, if this is impossible, you may be due money back to cover the damage.
You will need to be able to demonstrate that the damage was caused by the business repairing the phone, though.
Be wary, though – some businesses that offer repairs will make you sign a liability waiver – effectively saying you won't hold them responsible if their repair service damages your phone. Always read before signing!
If you bought your phone up-front using your credit card (even if you only paid a deposit), you may be protected under Section 75 if anything goes wrong with it – check our Superpage for more details!
Poor coverage and reception
Bad mobile signal
You are entitled to expect your mobile service to be delivered to a reasonable quality. If you find that you keep losing your signal, you should keep a record of every outage. This will serve you well when you need to complain, as your contract may stipulate that your provider cannot be held responsible for any loss of signal (as there are a number of factors that can affect your signal that may be out of your provider’s control). If you find that you consistently lack signal, you should complain to your mobile provider – you may be entitled to compensation (or at least to the chance to leave your contract without a cancellation fee).
Your mobile provider may wish to examine your handset to check that you haven't damaged it in any way that may cause signal failure.
Interference during calls
Interference on your mobile line can be off-putting and spoil your calls. Try hanging up and re-dialling – this can sometimes help. Otherwise, you should get in touch with your mobile provider via Resolver.
Your mobile provider might be able to solve the issue over the phone, or they may ask you to come into store to have an expert look at the phone. Regardless, you should keep a log of your communications with the company!
Accounts and customer services
My account has been stolen
Account theft is a crime and therefore will be taken very seriously. A reason to suspect account theft might be extremely high bills. If you suspect that theft has occurred, you should report the matter to your mobile provider and to the police immediately. Your mobile provider will be able to advise you what to do next.
If fraudulent payments have been taken from your bank account during the period in which your account has been stolen, we recommend that you contact your bank’s fraud department.
Mobile phone cloning
Mobile phone cloning occurs when an unscrupulous person obtains the unique serial number and telephone number of your phone. A cloned phone is one that has been reprogrammed to transmit the serial and telephone number belonging to another (legitimate) mobile phone. After cloning, both the legitimate and the fraudulent phones have the same number combinations and mobile systems cannot distinguish the cloned phone from the legitimate one. The legitimate phone user then gets billed for the cloned phone calls.
If you think that your phone has been cloned, you should contact your network provider and your insurer immediately via resolver. Your network provider should be able to determine which calls are legitimate and which have been made from the cloned phone. Check your policy carefully as you may have cover for unauthorised calls (up to a specified amount). If you think the charges you face for a cloned phone are unfair you can complain to the network provider and insurer directly.
Who should I complain to?
Use Resolver to contact your mobile provider with any issues you may have. If you aren’t happy with their response, you can use Resolver to escalate your complaint to a telecoms dispute resolution scheme – all mobile providers must belong to one of two telecoms dispute resolutions schemes (CISAS or the Communications Ombudsman Services). In some cases, it may be appropriate to direct your complaint to Ofcom. Resolver will determine the correct course of action and remind you when you need to escalate your account appropriately.
My account is in credit
If your account is in credit or you are owed money by your provider, you should contact your mobile provider as soon as possible through Resolver. Some providers automatically credit your account (if, for example, you have terminated your account and are owed a rebate), but you should still double-check to make sure that you don’t miss out on any money owed.
My phone hasn't been delivered
First, check if your retailer uses a delivery service, as these delivery companies should leave a notification at your home if they have attempted to deliver your phone while you were out. You will need to collect the phone from their local depot, or it will be returned to the retailer after a specified period (usually 10 days). A similar system applies to Royal Mail. If there is no evidence of an attempted delivery then you should contact your provider immediately to ensure your delivery address is correct. They should advise you on what to do about the missing phone – it is their responsibility to resolve the issue, as until the parcel is accepted by you it is still the mobile company’s responsibility.
If you are unhappy with your mobile provider’s response to your phone not turning up, raise an official complaint and determine what response you would like.
Poor customer service
If you find that your mobile provider has not provided adequate service in resolving your complaint, you should contact your mobile provider through Resolver – explain your issue clearly, as they may be unaware that they’re providing a poor level of service.
How do I unlock my phone?
If you have a phone that was previously locked to a certain provider, there are a number of options available for unlocking it.
You can visit a high street unlocking stand (these are often found in markets, in key cutters or computer shops), search online for free unlock codes (although be careful to avoid any scams or harmful software), or ask your network provider to supply you with a code.
You can raise issues with 28 companies in Mobile phones services
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