Vodafone Hutchison has made court-enforceable amendments to its policy regarding faulty handsets after an investigation by the ACCC.
Prior to the merger between Hutchison 3G and Vodafone Australia in June 2009, Hutchison was telling its customers that the only solution to a faulty phone was a repair. The only time customers could receive a replacement phone was if the handset broke in the ‘early life failure’ period, for 14 days after the purchase of the phone.
“Hutchison created an untenable situation where consumers with 15 day old faulty mobile phones were told they were only entitled to a repair,” ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.
“Suppliers of goods and services need to realise the Trade Practices Act implies certain statutory rights into consumer contracts. Mobile phone retailers need to know that often consumers’ statutory rights will extend beyond the manufacturers’ warranties.”
Common customer complaints regarding the policy included:
· Consumers face long repair times, sometimes with no loan phone being provided
· Consumers experience repeated faults with their mobile phones but each time are told they are only entitled to a repair rather than a replacement
· Consumers being told that after the initial 12 month period in which the manufacturer’s express warranty applies, no remedy is available; this is despite the consumer being locked into a 24 month service contract.
To address the ACCC’s concerns, Vodafone Hutchison Australia has undertaken for a period of three years to:
· Extend the ‘early life failure’ period during which replacement mobile phones are provided to consumers for faulty mobile; phones manufactured by Nokia, Apple, INQ and Research in Motion (Blackberry) from 14 days to 28 days* after purchase;
· Provide all customers who acquired a mobile phone (except for mobile phones manufactured by Apple) in conjunction with a service contract on or after 1 December 2009 an express repair warranty for the entire length of the customers’ service contract. That means a customer on a 24 month service contract will receive free unlimited repairs if their handset is faulty for the entire two year period;
· Provide all active pre-paid customers who acquired their handset on or after 1 January 2010 an express repair warranty for 24 months;
· Provide all active pre-paid customers who purchased their mobile phone prior to 31 December 2009 an express repair warranty for a period of 12 months from date of purchase;
· Take all reasonable steps to provide a loan phone to customers while their faulty phones are being repaired; and
· Take all reasonable steps to ensure repairs are completed in a timely manner.
Samuel hopes this undertaking will send a strong message to other mobile phone retailers.
“It is simply not good enough that a customer is tied into a service contact for two years when the retailer is only promising to fix a faulty mobile phone for the first 12 months,” he said.