Mobile phone repairs investigation

Complaints about mobile phones are at an all-time high.
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  • Updated:26 Jun 2008

05.Restricted warranties

Common exclusions

Manufacturers’ warranties contain significant exclusions that leave some consumers wondering what exactly is covered. And these warranties usually only last one year; you’d expect phones to last a lot longer. (In fact the statutory ‘implied warranty’ may still apply if your phone is fairly new — see Know your rights for more on this.)

Exclusions include:

  • Wear and tear.
  • Liquid damage, which seems a particular cause for concern. For more, see below.
  • Physical damage (even when there’s disagreement about whether the consumer was at fault).

Flippin’ hell!

Nicolle’s Nokia was damaged, not by being dropped but because its ‘flip’ opening mechanism caused the case to eventually crack. “The local Telstra Shop sent it to be repaired,” Nicolle says. “The salesperson said they’d received numerous Nokia phones in warranty with the same problem.” (Nokia, on the other hand, says there’s no ‘manufacturing issue’ with this particular phone or its flip mechanism.)

Nicolle’s phone was returned without being fixed. “Nokia told me there was ‘physical damage’ and they wouldn’t fix or replace the phone. They said they weren’t claiming I physically damaged the phone, but that it had physical damage [and so wasn’t covered by the warranty].”

Liquid damage

Liquid damage seems a particular cause for concern. Phone technicians can identify with certainty when liquid has seeped into a phone; the problem for consumers is it’s impossible to prove it wasn’t their fault. Several told us they’d never immersed their phone in water or caused liquid damage through misuse.

A large retailer agreed that users aren’t always to blame. “Most handsets can’t stand excessively dusty or moist conditions,” the company said. “If you spend all day on the phone and have particularly sweaty hands, for example, the handset could be damaged or fail.” This retailer also said incidences of and complaints about liquid damage can be higher in parts of the country where there’s higher humidity.

The TIO doesn’t record liquid damage complaints in a separate category from other faults, and was unable to verify this claim. The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association says high humidity and rain can corrode phones’ electronic circuits; go to for tips for avoiding such damage.

“You placed the phone in or near water”

Gordon and Maria, CHOICE readers from Queensland, bought two mobiles in April 2005 as part of a two-year contract with 3. Within a few months, Gordon’s phone wouldn’t turn on. He contacted 3 and the mobile was sent for repairs, but a few days later he received a call from a 3 representative saying the phone “cannot be repaired or replaced due to water found inside [it]. You have placed your mobile phone in or near water.”

“As new customers, we were totally shocked at this treatment,” says Maria. “Gordon kept explaining that the day the phone broke down had been particularly humid and that perhaps that caused the problem. He didn’t have the phone in or near water.”


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