How to safely buy a Second Hand Phone

In the last post, we looked at where to buy a used smartphone and what to look for. Now we consider issues such as returns policies, warranties and consumer rights, which provide protection and can be as important as the the condition of a second-hand phone. These rights and safeguards demonstrate that buying a pre-owned device is little different from buying new.

Returns policies are usually short, ranging from 14 to 30 days, so you’ll want to read the fine print before you buy. Some retailers establish these policies themselves, while other platforms which facilitate interaction between buyers and sellers rely on the integrity and honesty of the individuals, saying that no seller can deny a return or refund when a device turns out to be not as advertised.

Some websites use PayPal for payments, so buyers are covered by the company’s 180-day protection policy. eBay provides a money-back guarantee that usually requires action within a 30-day window, but this puts a lot of responsibility on sellers and buyers to be proactive and carry out the legwork.


Warranties also vary, so it’s worth looking for one that’s included in the sale of the phone and offered by the original manufacturer or refurbisher. This course of action will streamline the process if you do need to send in your handset for repair, because you’ll be dealing with the same outfit which sold you the phone. More importantly, you’ll be less likely to be sold a protection plan that’s not suitable or even invalid for the device you’re buying.

As a matter of interest, SquareTrade, a protection provider of choice for major retailers such as Amazon and Costco, was hit with a class action lawsuit over allegedly fraudulent protection plans.

Apple’s refurbished phones come with a one-year warranty, as do Samsung’s certified pre-owned phones. Back Market, a vendor of refurbished phones which has operated in Europe since 2014 and has since expanded to the USA, offers a guaranteed one-year warranty. In this case, the original refurbisher will repair, replace or refund a handset if problems arise during this period. Some retailers already plan to add extended warranty options for some products, which will include up to one year of coverage for an extra fee.

If all this seems confusing and a nuisance, it’s worth remembering that more and more consumers are turning away from brand new smartphones and towards second-hand devices. Research firm IDC has predicted that the used smartphone market will be worth around $30bn by 2020, having almost tripled from 81.3mn devices in 2015 to 222.6mn five years later. Admittedly, that’s still a small chunk of the overall phone market, but it demonstrates a growing interest in used handsets on the part of consumers.

It also shows that people are increasingly willing to opt for a product that’s new to them, rather than a new device that the original manufacturers feel obliged to release every year.

Consumer rights

At this point, it’s worth casting an eye over the legislation regarding consumer rights and second-hand goods. If your used goods aren’t what you expected, you may be entitled to a refund. Whether you get one depends on who you’ve bought your items from - a trader or an individual. But buyer beware, if you deal with a private seller - they’re not obliged to draw attention to defects.

When you buy second-hand goods from an online retailer, such as, you’re protected by the Consumer Contracts Regulations and you can choose to cancel the order from the time you place the order up to 14 days from the day you receive it. You should receive a refund within 14 days of the trader receiving the goods back, or you providing evidence of having returned the goods (e.g. a proof of postage receipt from the post office), whichever is sooner.

I Need A Mobile, on their own terms, actually offer a 30 day return policy and a 12 month repair warranty for minor faults. (This does not include accidental LCD or water damage.)

You’ll also be covered by the Consumer Rights Act, which states that goods must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. The seller is obliged to inform you of any faults or problems, but not wear and tear. If your second-hand purchase is faulty, you can claim a refund, repair or replacement from the retailer who sold it to you. If you claim after six months, you will have to prove that the product was faulty at the time of delivery.

If you buy from a private seller, the Consumer Rights Act states that the goods you get must be as they were described to you by the seller. There’s no obligation on the seller to disclose any faults, but misrepresenting goods isn’t allowed. For example, something second-hand should not be described as new; if it is, the seller will be in breach of contract.

However, resolving issues can be tricky. If you can’t reach agreement between yourselves, you’ll have to try alternative dispute resolution or the small claims court.

To sum up, when you buy a second-hand device from a retailer, you are entitled to cancel the order within a particular time frame and receive a refund. If the item is faulty you can request a refund, repair or replacement. But as far as buying privately is concerned, the old adage still holds true - caveat emptor