What are my consumer rights with refurbished phones?

At I Need a Mobile, we think buying a refurbished smartphone should be as easy as buying new. The phone you expect to receive should be the phone you get, and it should live up to your expectations in every single way.

Sadly, not all refurbished phone retailers take the same high-quality view of customer experience. This leads to condition discrepancies and returns from customers who are upset they bought a phone that’s no good.

If you ever find yourself in this frustrating situation, the good news is there are things you can do about it. In this guide to consumer rights with refurbished phones, we’ll explore your options to help you get the outcome you deserve.

Refurbished phones purchased with a retailer – your cancellation and refund rights

If you purchase a refurbished smartphone from a retailer operating in the United Kingdom, you have consumer rights that are protected by law.

Consumer Contracts Regulations

Your consumer rights in this case are provided by the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations came into effect in 2014 to implement the Consumer Rights Directive, which was introduced by the EU.

In a nutshell:

  • You can cancel your order without penalty within 14 days
  • You are entitled to a full refund within 14 days of sending your goods back.

Cancellation rights

The Consumer Contracts Regulations state that you can cancel your order up to 14 days from the day you receive it. You do not have to provide a reason for cancellation and the retailer has no legal right to request one.

Your right to a refund

If you intend to send your phone back, the Consumer Contracts Regulations state that you are entitled to a refund within 14 days of either: the retailer getting the goods back; or, you providing proof of postage (whichever is soonest).

If the retailer picks up the goods for you, they must refund you within 14 days of the date you informed them you wanted to cancel your purchase. The pick-up date of the goods has no bearing on the date you should get a refund.

Refurbished phones purchased with a retailer – your right to receive goods of a satisfactory quality

If you purchase a refurbished smartphone from a retailer, you also have consumer rights protected by law that state goods must be as described.

Consumer Rights Act 2015

Your consumer rights in this case fall under the Consumer Rights Act.

The Consumer Rights Act came into effect in 2015. It replaced the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, and the Supply of Goods and Services Act.

In a nutshell:

  • Goods sold must be in satisfactory condition
  • Goods sold must arrive as described
  • If they are not, you can request a refund within 30 days.

Product quality

The Consumer Rights Act makes it clear that you have the right to receive goods that are of a satisfactory quality. This includes refurbished devices purchased from retailers. There are three aspects to this, stating that goods must be:

  • Of satisfactory quality: A refurbished phone shouldn’t be faulty or damaged when you receive it. It should be in reasonable condition.
  • Fit for purpose: A refurbished phone should be fit for the purpose it was supplied for. In this case, it should work completely as intended.
  • As described: A refurbished phone must match the description provided. So, for example, a Grade A device should be near mint or pristine.

If any of these three conditions aren’t met, you can make a claim.

Claims within 30 days

You can return a refurbished phone of unsatisfactory quality up to 30 days from taking ownership of it. This is a 30-day right to reject and it starts the day you take delivery of your refurbished phone – not the day you buy it.

Claims after 30 days have passed

Your right to claim after 30 days does not include a refund. However, some retailers may offer an extended refund period.

After 30 days, you can request the retailer to repair or replace your device if you believe it was sold in unsatisfactory condition, or if it has developed a fault in the first 6 months. But it may be up to you to prove the phone is at fault.

Refurbished phones purchased with a private seller

Unfortunately, if you purchase a refurbished smartphone or a second-hand smartphone from a private seller, you do not enjoy the same cancellation or refund rights (which is why we always recommend being wary of what you buy from private sellers on eBay and other places like Gumtree and Facebook Local).

When you buy a smartphone from a private seller, they will be under no legal obligation to provide a refund, because the Consumer Contracts Regulations and Consumer Rights Act only protect consumers who buy from businesses.

And so, the best way to protect yourself is to buy from a retailer in the first place.

If we’re too late, and you’re here because you have already purchased a dodgy smartphone from a private seller, you may still be able to get help.

Misrepresentation of goods

Although private sellers are not legally obligated to disclose faults, they are not allowed to misrepresent goods either.

Phrases like “fully working” and “works like new” can be used against sellers who sell you a smartphone that doesn’t work right. A breach of contract will also be made if a second-hand phone is described as new and isn’t new.

However, putting things right isn’t always easy. You will be at the mercy of the seller, and if they won’t help you, then you’ll want to cross your fingers and hope the sales platform you purchased your phone on (e.g. eBay) will fight your corner.

If these avenues fail, you might want to try the Small Claims Court.

Remember though – the best way to protect yourself, and to be able to exercise your consumer rights, is to buy your refurbished phone from a retailer in the first place. This will give you the same rights you get with a new phone.