FCCA report: A defect in a mobile phone may lead to endless rounds of repairs

The FCCA has conducted a study of consumers’ problems with mobile phones, which typically involve defects in the phones and resolving the issue. In the worst case, this leads to a round of repairs in which the same defect is repaired several times. Repairs may also fail or the seller may refuse to compensate for the repair. The Consumer Ombudsman has sent the report to mobile phone sellers and urged them to ensure that their practices fulfil the requirements set by law.

Mobile phones are important devices for consumers in modern society. Mobile phones are not just used for communication but also for identification, payments and controlling other devices in the home. Everyday life is made considerably more difficult for consumers if they have to go for a long period without their phone. Mobile phones should therefore be repaired without undue delay, and the same defect should not be repaired several times. However, based on the numerous contacts that consumer authorities receive year after year, the reality is quite different.

To obtain a better picture of the problems, the FCCA has studied the contacts recorded in the consumer administration’s database in 2017 concerning issues with mobile phones. There were a total of 1,560 of such contacts. It can be assumed that these reflect just a small portion of all issues with mobile phones, as, according to the European Commission’s scoreboard, only four percent of Finnish consumers on average contact the consumer authorities in problem situations.

Two repairs are enough

Businesses have the right to repair a defect if this is done within a reasonable time without causing a decrease in the value of the item and without undue inconvenience to the buyer. As mobile phones are in many ways important for consumers’ everyday lives, the repairs should not take more than two weeks, and the same defect should not be repaired more than twice. Based on consumers’ experiences, however, mobile phone defects were sometimes repaired three or even four times, which, in the worst case, could extend the repair period to months.

Some sellers provided the consumer with a replacement device for the duration of repairs while some did not, or they charged a fee for the replacement. The Consumer Ombudsman recommends that consumers are provided with a functioning mobile phone for the duration of repairs, even though this is not required by law.

The seller is responsible for smooth customer service and that consumers get support when there are problems. The seller must also tell the consumer about the content of the repair and its schedule at their own initiative. Based on consumers’ experiences, however, it was often difficult to reach customer service, and they had to enquire about the progress of the repair themselves. Customers were also bounced back and forth between the seller, repair service and the manufacturer or importer, with none of the parties taking responsibility for the matter.

Rights and obligations are unclear both to consumers and businesses

The report shows that some businesses and consumers are not aware of their own rights and obligations. It was particularly unclear how defects are compensated for and what the difference is between the seller’s liability for defect and the warranty. Consumers can file a complaint about a defect in the mobile phone, even if it has no warranty or if the warranty has expired. Based on consumers’ experiences, however, sellers often refuse to repair the phone on these grounds. Consumers, on their part, had the misconception that they are always entitled to return a non-defective phone to the store or that they would immediately receive a new device to replace a defective phone.

The Consumer Ombudsman has sent the report to businesses selling mobile phones and urged them to ensure that their practices comply with the Consumer Protection Act.

”Companies that sell mobile phones to consumers and service mobile phones must observe the responsibilities set for them by law and their own role as promoters of digital services. Consumers’ complaints about mobile phones must be handled better and more quickly than is currently the case,” says Consumer Ombudsman Katri Väänänen.

The Consumer Ombudsman will continue to monitor contacts concerning mobile phones and, if necessary, take the conduct of an individual business under investigation. The FCCA will also use the results of the study in its communications to consumers and businesses.

  • Report Consumer problems with mobile phones
  • The most typical problematic situations with mobile phones
  • Information on rights related to the repair of goods
  • The Warranty Assistant can be used to determine whether the seller is responsible for a defect in the item and how the defect can be compensated for
  • Consumer Ombudsman’s guidelines Defect liability and warranties in the sales of consumer goods