Which? rates mobile phone shops

A mobile phone storeConsumer rights group Which? has found the standard of advice given in most mobile phone shops is better than popular perception has it. In a survey of 10 chains, Carphone Warehouse came out top, but all 10 received at least one 'excellent' rating. Which? also lists some helpful buyer's tips.
Which? sent researchers to five stores in each chain. The researchers posed as customers who needed a new handset and tariff but were confused by what was on offer. They told staff their current top-up payments were between £5-15 a month, that their use was light, and that they didn't want internet access.

Explain the benefits

The research looked at whether stores realised that spend made the customer a borderline pay as you go (PAYG)/ top-up case and would therefore explain the benefits of both options. While it found good advice at all 10 chains, it said this was 'sometimes tempered by poor attitude".

Carphone Warehouse got four out of five 'excellent' ratings and one 'good'. Advice was given in a friendly and helpful manner and the deals and handsets identified were broadly in line with the researcher's needs. The pros and cons of alternative deals were explained carefully.

Virgin Media and 02 shops also scored well, with none of the stores attempting to push long, inappropriately-priced contracts. The greatest variation of advice came from staff in the 3 network's stores, which scored 1 in each of the five ratings from 'excellent' to 'poor'. Fonehouse came out worst of the 10.

Inappropriate contracts

The 'poor' ratings were given when staff pushed contracts over the customer's stated limits, or who emphasised features they said they did not want. With nine out of 10 customers buying their phone from a high street store, according to Which?, this is a key survey.

The report also includes some basic advice on what questions to ask when shopping for a new phone.
  • Are all calls included? It's important to check exactly what calls are included in deals, for example are international or premium rate number calls included in 'free minute' deals?
  • Can I return a handset if I don't like it? You have a legal right only to return faulty products. Some stores give you a 14-day period within which to return a handset. Orange stores gave conflicting advice about the right to exchange handsets.
  • What happens if my phone develops a fault? You have the legal right under the Sale of Goods Act to return faulty goods in-store and get a refund, over and above any manufacturer's guarantee.
  • Will I get a good mobile signal? Ask the retailer to check network coverage in your postcode. And check again when you get home. Many retailers allow you to change your deal within seven days if you can't get a signal.
  • Do I need insurance? Check the details of any deal offered. For most basic handsets, Which? says insurance is unnecessary. Don't be pressured into buying.


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