CONSUMER: Retired building firm boss caught out after buying faulty smartphone online

Chris Parkes endured weeks of frustration with Wileyfox, before the company went into voluntary liquidation
Chris Parkes endured weeks of frustration with Wileyfox, before the company went into voluntary liquidation
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There’s nothing worse than something you’ve bought going wrong just weeks after you bought it.

And when it’s a gadget that you’ve come to rely on, any malfunction can be both annoying and inconvenient.

That was the dilemma facing retired Hayling Island reader Chris Parke after he bought a Swift 2 smartphone at the back-end of last November from online retailer Wileyfox.

Wileyfox boasts on its website that it exists because people are tired of paying over the odds for mobiles.

They claim to provide extraordinary value for money on top-end products and an unrivalled choice buyers have never had before.

But a disappointed Chris had the promised £119 bargain basement phone for only around seven weeks when the screen display went fuzzy and became unstable.

He spent the rest of January locked in a frustrating online battle with Wileyfox customer services.

They refused to refund him for the faulty phone and insisted he’d have to put up with a minimum of three weeks inconvenience while they tried to repair it.

The 72-year-old former building firm boss explained that all one ever expects from a mobile phone is reliability.

When he mentioned he was in the market for a replacement phone to his son-in-law, it was suggested taking a look at Wileyfox because he knew a former work colleague who had one.

Chris said: ‘I don’t pay a fortune for phones so I thought I’d give it a try.

‘I knew what I was doing spending just over £100 on a phone. Although it’s vital to me to be able to take calls, the other advanced features were really just bonuses.

‘The phone became defective mid January. There’s no Wileyfox phone number to contact so I reported it to the customer support email address on their website.

‘I didn’t expect any problems because the site said they were committed to providing customer service that’s as good as their phones, if not better.

‘They promised a response within 24 hours, but I had to email them again a couple of days later as they didn’t reply. I then left a message the following day and got an automated out-of-office reply.

‘A week later, when I still didn’t receive an answer, I sent a recorded letter to the only published head office address I could find.

‘I said I didn’t think the phone was fit for purpose or durable and asked for a refund and to return the phone.

‘They finally got back the following day asking what was wrong.

‘When I told them they were adamant that, as I’d had the phone for more than 30 days before it went wrong, all they were prepared to do was to get me to send it back for repair.’

After all the hassle and run around just trying to contact the firm, Chris’s hackles were up when his reasonable request was turned down.

He was determined, though, not to be given the brush off.

Chris came to Streetwise to confirm where he stood.

We agreed Wileyfox were right to claim that if a fault developed with a phone after 30 days from purchase, all they were initially obliged to do was to offer a repair.

However, having got used to the staggering level of legal ignorance from retailers about faulty goods, we told Chris he had an equal right to not be left hanging around without a fully working phone.

Given the purpose of the product, three weeks without his phone was an unacceptable inconvenience.

The appropriate remedy was a prompt replacement or a refund.

The fact that it was clearly a dud so soon after purchase also suggested he had a valid claim the product wasn’t sufficiently durable and failed the quality or fitness for purpose test demanded by the 2015 Consumer Rights Act.

Although it has become standard practice by mobile retailers to insist customers spend their time and money returning faulty phones for repair, that was the responsibility of Wyleyfox and they were clearly flouting the law.

We were also critical of their claim that the aftercare service was second to none. If Chris’s experience was anything to go by, it had all the appearance of hyperbole beyond belief.

Our investigation revealed it wasn’t just a one-off incident.

His complaint with the firm was replicated in countless online and Facebook customer reviews with carbon-copy incidents of indifferent customer service standards and taking ages to get faulty phones repaired.

We got on to the firm via the only available email channel and asked them to comment.

But shortly before the Streetwise deadline, we discovered events had overtaken us.

When they didn’t get back, we learned all 20 staff had been laid off after the directors had put the company into voluntary liquidation.

We reluctantly had to tell Chris his determined stand against second-rate service and trashing his statutory rights had hit the buffers.

Despite the liquidator’s attempt to find a buyer for the company, it looked extremely unlikely that dissatisfied customers would get any money back or their phones repaired under guarantee.

He was philosophical but unrepentant about the firm’s demise.

He said: ‘I bought the phone in good faith and possibly should have looked at them a bit closer.

‘Everything about them was appalling.’