Buying second-hand mobile - risk in buying an "unwanted upgrade"?

Discussion in 'Mobile Phones' started by 4(T), Jun 25, 2011.

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  1. I'm looking to buy a smartphone on eBay - probably a Samsung Galaxy S2 or HTC Desire HD.

    Obviously any eBay gadget purchase has enormous caveat emptor anyway, but I'm trying to work out how safe it is to buy someone's "unwanted upgrade". I'm assuming that, when a mobile company sends out an upgrade, the mobile company will continue to own that handset for the duration of the contract its on - ie the phone cost is effectively being paid by the contract holder on an HPI basis. Thus if someone sells an "upgrade" - or phone on any sort of contract plan - then the buyer is at risk of the phone being blocked by the original mobile provider if the related contract is cancelled or reneged on (ie same as a car or other goods with HPI outstanding)?

    Does this happen in practice? Is there a safe way to purchase such a handset - i.e. contacting the original provider with the EMEI number and checking the contract status? Is there a way to clear any contract link, or is it a case of returning the handset to the vendor as a bad sale?

  2. It amazes me that, when asked for one or more "utilities bills" as a I/D reference, bills from a landline phone are acceptable, but bills from a mobile phone company generally aren't. There's a LOT more rigmarole involved in getting a mobile phone contract than there is in getting a landline! Fail to pay your mobile bill, and they WILL find you and demand payment. Blacklisting your phone until the bill is settled is just ONE avenue open to them. (i.e. they don't just block the phone and wait patiently for you to cough up the cash.) So selling on your "upgrade" phone as a source of quick cash and then failing to pay the phonebill would be a fairly shortsighted move by anyone trying it.

    If "the original provider" was to respond to queries about the status of their contract with the person to whom they'd supplied the handset to some third party... then they'd be in clear breach of the Data Protection Act, and as a result in DEEP trouble. Best you can do is infer that mobile providers only supply upgrades to people with whom they have a direct (and acceptable!) credit history dating back a year or longer.

    I've bought and sold tons of mobile phones using EBay over the years, (I dabbled briefly in phone repairs!) and the risk you describe was always present in my mind... but I judge it to be a very small risk, improved by my not touching a newcomer to EBay with a bargepole.
  3. Sixty

    Sixty LE Moderator Book Reviewer
    1. ARRSE Cyclists and Triathletes

    As far as I'm aware 4(T), only the SIM card remains their property*. By coincidence, my new upgrade was delivered yesterday and the words 'Equipment remains the property of Vodafone until settlement' are on the bottom of the invoice. The invoice only covers the delivery charge so my reading of it is that once the delivery is paid for, the phone's mine to do with as I will.

    *Certainly, that's all that appears in the Ts & Cs.

  4. You can check if it's stolen or blocked Mobile Phone Crime Unit: What we do I used this service when I got a cheap phone on fleabay, they sent me the IMEI before I purchased it and I confirmed it when I went to collect it.
  5. Thanks, thats quite interesting. I'd assumed that the c.£450 cost of a new handset was spread over the c.£35 pcm payments of a typical 24 month contract - hence that the handset remains the property of the provider until paid off. Your invoice/T&C seems to imply that the handset is a kind of "loss-lead" and written off up front.

    I haven't actually heard any tales of eBay-bought handsets suddenly being blocked by the provider a few months after purchase, and I guess if there are thousands of "upgrades" openly offered for sale then it must be reasonably safe.

    Might all be academic; my winning bid on a phone has gone unanswered by the vendor for 48 hrs so far... ho hum, yet another couple of weeks chasing PayPal again....
  6. I predict that the vendor will have dropped the phone, resulting in "ireperable damage". (Or, in plain English, they "got a better offer from a mate down the pub") It's happened to me more than once. I won an auction for an eMac last year, deal was "local collection only" (an eMac weighs 49lbs, making it prohibitively expensive to post). My winning bid, as a result was less than the RAM fitted in the machine was worth. The vendor claimed "Oops, I was just wrapping it for you when it slipped out of my hands and smashed on the floor". I think they were slightly surprised when I responded "No problem, I really only wanted some of the parts, I'll be around later to collect them." Suddenly, they remembered that they'd already taken the smashed parts to the local tip and disposed of them. Lying bastards.
  7. Check that the previous owner wasn't a Scottish MP. The phone might have some bloodstains on it. I hear his aim was becoming quite good towards the end.