ACCC: Mobile Providers Must Play Fair

The ACCC has sent a warning shot to telcos that they must take heed of consumers concerns of failed handsets.

Mobile telephone service providers have been warned to play fair with consumers whose handsets fail during the term of a service contract, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission warned in a recent press release on its website.

“Consumers who buy a mobile telephone as part of their service contract have the right to expect that the handset will last the length of that contract,” said ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel.

“Some companies are seeking to avoid their responsibilities by arguing that if a handset fails, it’s not part of the service contract, and the consumer is up for the cost of repair or replacement.

“This is simply not on. The ACCC believes the handset is an integral part of the package and if it fails through no fault of the consumer, the company is responsible for replacement or repair.”

Samuel pointed to the recent resolution with Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) over warranty issues under which it agreed that customers who acquired mobile phones under a service contract received a retail warranty at no extra cost for the contract’s term.  There is an exception for Apple phones where the warranty is limited to 12 months, regardless of the term of the service contract.

“This means that a customer on a 24-month service contract will receive free unlimited repairs if their handset is faulty for the entire 24 months,” said Samuel. “Also, VHA customers who had pre-paid contracts from 1 January this year who buy their handset will get an express warranty for 24 months.

“Further, VHA has undertaken to take all reasonable steps to provide a loan phone to customers while faulty phone is being repaired and that the repair will be done in a timely manner.

“The ACCC is currently in discussions with Telstra and Optus to bring these companies, their resellers and agents up to the line. I am confident that these major suppliers will put their customers’ interest first and step up.”