Buying Phones

Buying a phone from anywhere other than a reputable outlet carries some degree of risk. It is easy to be lured by the price of an item, making other considerations secondary. If a price appears to be too good to be true it is likely to result in problems. Stolen phones will not work in the UK, and even if you buy one in good faith the network providers will not remove this block for anyone other than the customer who reported it stolen to them. You should consider that if the transaction goes wrong, how will you be able to recover your money ? Do you have enough information about the seller to enforce your legal rights ?

Check the wording of an advert, expressions such as "Does not work in the UK, but works abroad" are telling you it is a stolen phone. Blocked phones have the potential to work outside of the UK, but there is no other reason for a phone not to work in the UK but be capable of doing so abroad.

Check any photograph of the sale - is it a stock photo, ask for further pictures if in doubt.

Consider the price and check it against similar items and mobile phone recyclers valuations.

You should ask the seller for their name, the IMEI number of the phone, if it is locked to a network or not and if it has been modified in anyway. If the seller cannot provide these details we would strongly advise you not to proceed with the transaction.

You can check the IMEI for a fee of less than £2 on CheckMend. This will return the make and model associated with the IMEI, and whether it is currently reported lost or stolen. If it is shown as lost or stolen, do not proceed and inform the company that is hosting the advert.

If you purchase a handset you should use an auditable payment method, such as cheque, credit transfer, Paypal to the named person. Do not pay into a third person"s account as you lose control of the transaction.

Be very wary of "jailbroken" phones where the limitations imposed by the manufacturer have been removed. Often when a smartphone is "jailbroken", not only does it allow applications that the manufacturer has not authorised to be used but it can also prevent the installed virus protection from being effective. This makes the phone vulnerable to Malware - malicious software that can be placed on a phone a and lead to data compromise and a major intrusion of your privacy. If you do buy please ensure that you install and run a virus checker before use if it is not a secure operating system.

If you do innocently buy a stolen phone, you can never acquire legal title. If you are sold a stolen handset, report it to your local Police, they will investigate.

Trade buying of phones

If you are a business that buys mobile phones, it is vital that you take reasonable steps or precautions and conduct 'due diligence' to ensure that you and your employees avoid buying or selling stolen mobile phones. You need to be satisfied that the customer has lawful ownership and is entitled to sell you that property.

This means that you have looked at the way in which your business operates and put in a series of checks to prevent any problems occurring. Once you have done this you must ensure that the system of checks is being carried out.

CheckMEND is an online system of checking mobile phones and other identifiable property against a database of stolen property. The system keeps an audit trail of all checks you run and provides a certificate of the check that can be printed at any time. A check on a mobile phone IMEI will provide manufacturers information about the make and model, whether it has been or is currently blocked and/or reported as lost or stolen together with insurance claims data.

Further good practice is to record details of sellers and the identify documents produced, maintaining a working CCTV system, and contacting the Police if you are believe you are being offered stolen goods.

Counterfeit handsets

Counterfeit, replica, fake and copy are all terms used to describe phones not produced by genuine certified mobile phone handset manufacturers.

Most fake phones are counterfeit copies of genuine handsets, which steal design and trademarks to deceive consumers. Other fakes do not infringe copyright but appear to be legitimate competition to genuine models. All fake phones are produced without government approval, testing or certification and are sold illegally on the world"s black market. They are usually sold at a much lower price than a genuine handset as they are made from cheap substandard components. The counterfeiters avoid paying government taxes, import fees or make any investment in research, design and safety testing.

Counterfeit phones can be a real health hazard with reported cases of exploding batteries for example. As they are normally made from inferior components they are prone to break. Most repairers will not work on a counterfeit phone.

How to avoid buying a counterfeit phone

  • Research the phone. Check the manufacturer"s website or a registered retailer to be familiar with models, features, software and hardware and compare with your potential purchase.
  • Compare the appearance. Check any photograph of the sale - is it a stock photo, ask for further pictures if in doubt.
  • Consider the price and check it against similar items and mobile phone recyclers" valuations.
  • Unlike genuine mobile phone manufacturers, black market phones rarely come with a warranty or offer customer servicing of damaged products.
  • You should ask the seller for their name and the IMEI number of the phone.
  • You can check the IMEI for a fee of less than £2 on CheckMend. This will return the make and model associated with the IMEI.
  • Check the IMEI on receipt if you decide to purchase to ensure it corresponds to the numbers given.
  • If you purchase a handset you should use an auditable payment method, such as cheque, credit transfer, Paypal to the named person. Do not pay into a third person"s account as you lose control of the transaction.
  • If you've been offered or have bought counterfeit goods, report the matter to your local trading standards office and local Police. www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/consumers/consumers.cfm