Faulty mobile phones

December 31, 2018

Towards the end of the year many consumers will look to take advantage of deals being offered by companies that retail mobile phones.

And while many consumers will get good deals, the Council is aware that there are some unscrupulous traders who will retail products of inferior quality in efforts to fleece consumers and take advantage of them.

The joy related to the new purchase will turn sour when people realise the mobile phone they bought is defective, counterfeit or of inferior quality. It further adds to consumers’ frustration and annoyance when they are given a run around to seek redress.

Consumers expect to get good value for their hard earned money and at the very least, all products sold must be fit for the purpose they are intended. The least they expect when purchasing a mobile phone, or any other product for that matter, is for it to be in good working condition.

Unfortunately, there have been numerous cases reported to the Council where consumers have been duped by mobile phone retailers. In 2018 alone, the Council received $30,338.79 worth of complaints.

A majority of these cases were against Gartile Mobile Company, a popular mobile handsets and accessories retailer operating in almost all major town centres in the country.

Common complaints against the company included refusal to provide refund or replacement to consumers, duping consumers into buying poor quality and counterfeit mobile phones and products, misplacing consumers’ phones during repair, faulty phones despite multiple repairs, not issuing receipts, returning a different phone to consumers after repair and no internet access on phones.

Earlier this year, a consumer bought a brand new Samsung J5 phone from the company but could not connect to the internet at all. While purchasing the phone, she was advised that the phone had internet access. When she found the phone to be faulty, she returned to the trader to get a refund or a replacement.

The trader failed to provide full disclosures about the product, which led to the consumer spending more money to travel to Suva and seek redress. She was misled into purchasing the phone because of the incorrect in-store information provided to her.

The Council intervened and cautioned the trader to adhere to the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC) Act sections 75 (1) and 77 (1), which specify goods bought must be fit for the intended purpose.

The Act further stipulates that traders should not, in trade or commerce engage in any conduct that is misleading or deceptive. Traders should also refrain from falsely representing that goods are of a particular standard, quality, grade, composition, style or model. The trader then agreed to replace the consumer’s phone without any delay.   

In another instance, a complainant gave her Huawei mobile phone for repair at Gartile and was advised to pay $80 to fix the damaged screen. The consumer paid the repair cost but on the day of collection was given a different Huawei phone with a Nokia battery. The Council stepped in and asked the trader to repair or replace the mobile phone at its cost, which was actioned.

The Council strongly urges traders to act responsibly and ensure consumers are equipped with all the necessary information about the mobile phone they purchase. This includes information about special features, functions, benefits and limitations of mobile phones. This will allow consumers to decide which product best suits their needs and budget.

A working model of phones retailed by traders must be made available in-store for consumers to view and also to test the advertised specifications. The phones must function as advertised. Advertisements should clearly state what consumers will get when they purchase a mobile phone, including information on warranty. Warranties usually cover manufacturing defects and hardware malfunctions but do not cover damage from accidents and misuse.

At the same time, while exercising their rights as consumers, people must ensure they do comparative shopping and invest in quality goods.

This will save them from unnecessary hassle and the burden of repair cost. Consumers are also urged to question traders thoroughly to clear any doubts they may have regarding redress mechanisms.

When buying mobile phones, consumers should also pay attention to the display, battery, storage space, camera quality, audio, ability to support wireless charging and newer networks, and whether the phone is new, refurbished or an older-model mobile phone.

It is also advisable to do a bit of research on the company that makes the mobile phone. It will give consumers an idea of how the particular company is viewed and perceived by customers, stakeholders, and the market as a whole.  

Consumers facing issues with mobile phones are urged to lodge an official complaint by calling the Councils toll free helpline 155 or email complaints@consumersfiji.org.