The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has sent a strong message to other mobile phone retailers to lift their game, after investigating Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA)’s policies for faulty mobile phones.
"At minimum, they need to ensure consumers have access to a reasonable remedy for the entire period of their service contract,” said ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel.
"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."
The ACCC was concerned that from 1 May 2008 to 8 June 2009 (prior to Hutchison 3G Australia’s merger with Vodafone Australia to become VHA) Hutchison told its customers that the only remedy available to them for a faulty mobile phone was a repair.
Generally the only time a customer was able to obtain a replacement mobile phone was during the ‘early life failure’ period, which was normally 14 days after purchase.
VHA has since acknowledged that in making these kinds of representations it was likely to have breached the Trade Practices Act 1974.
"Hutchison created an untenable situation where consumers with 15-day-old faulty mobile phones were told they were only entitled to a repair," said Samuel.
"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.”
VHA has expressly acknowledged there will be circumstances where a consumer is entitled to a replacement outside the early life failure period but prior to the service contract coming to an end. VHA’s undertakings will apply to both its ‘3’ and Vodafone customers.
"Everyday consumers across Australia have to deal with the inconvenience of a faulty mobile phone. Often the real frustration begins when the consumer takes the mobile phone back to their telecommunications provider for a remedy," concluded Samuel.