What happens if your new shiny phone stops working six months after you buy it? Finder explains your warranty rights in Australia.
It really sucks when your mobile phone stops working, especially if you're not at fault. If it broke down when you were in the store signing contracts, you'd naturally request a replacement, but what happens if it bites the bullet six months down the track?
Most smartphone manufacturers offer a standard warranty document, typically for 12 months. Be aware that this acts as a supplement to your basic consumer rights under Australian law, not a replacement for it.
Australian Consumer Law guarantees
Whether you buy a phone outright or via a 12- or 24-month contract, your purchase is covered by general Australian consumer law, which specifies that any goods sold in Australia are covered under an automatic guarantee.
Specifically, goods must be "fit for purpose" for normal usage and meet the promises made in marketing and promotional material. There's no hard time limit written into Australian consumer law, but these guarantees only apply for "the amount of time that is reasonable to expect, given the cost and quality of the item" (source: ACCC Warranties and refunds guide).
For instance, nobody is reasonably going to accept the idea that a smartphone should only last for six months. Presuming you haven't caused the problem with your phone through misuse or damage (intentional or accidental), you should be covered for even the cheapest smartphone.
On the other hand, if you're still holding onto an old Nokia candy bar phone from 2002, no business is obligated to provide warranty repair for it. It's simply unreasonable to expect a relatively low-cost phone to last fifteen years without fault, so your consumer rights do not apply.
You can read more about consumer rights at the ACCC website.
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Other warranties and guarantees
In addition to your standard consumer rights, most new phones come with manufacturer warranties. These vary in duration and coverage from manufacturer to manufacturer, but they typically apply for between 12 to 24 months and cover you for repair or replacement when the fault can be attributed to a manufacturing defect. If, however, the fault was caused by abnormal use or damage, the manufacturer warranty will no longer apply.
One advantage manufacturer warranties can have over your standard Australian consumer rights is international coverage. Depending on the manufacturer, some warranties will apply no matter where you are in the world, so if your phone stops working while you're travelling, you can quickly get it repaired without needing to send it back home to Australia.
Most telcos also offer warranties when purchasing phones on contract. These warranties generally provide similar coverage to manufacturer warranties and last the length of your contract. Since most phone plans operate on 24-month contracts, this means you're covered for two years against any manufacturing defects or other issues inherent in the phone itself. Again, this doesn't replace your general consumer guarantees, but it does provide additional peace of mind.
If you're looking for a more comprehensive level of coverage that will protect you against accidental damage, standard warranties aren't going to cut it. Instead, you'll need to purchase smartphone insurance, or in the case of Apple's iPhone, the extended "AppleCare" warranty that Apple sells as an add-on product. These will generally cover you for accidental breakage for a set period of time, although it's worth reading the fine print carefully to ascertain what you can and can't claim for.
What to do before sending your phone for repair
To verify whether your faulty phone is covered by warranty, technicians are going to have to open it up and inspect various components for misuse or damage. This typically involves wiping all data from your phone, including your messages, photos and contact info. Additionally, the phone you get back from a successful warranty claim may not be the one you sent in – more often than not, you'll be sent a replacement or refurbished handset with none of your old data or settings.
For this reason, it's a good idea to regularly back up your photos, contacts and other phone content. After all, you may not be able to create a fresh backup before sending your phone in for repair if, for instance, it won't turn on at all.