Mobile Phones and the Dodgy Cashback Deal

By: J Tillotson

The latest rip-off to come to light in Britain is the cashback deal offered by mobile phone companies. An investigation carried out by Which? has found that a worrying number of consumers are being made to 'jump through hoops' in order to get the cashback they signed up for.

Even more worryingly, it's been discovered that the companies are imposing unreasonable terms and conditions on their cashback customers. They specify a window of only a month or less in which to claim, and set odd dates in which to do so, such as the 3rd, 5th, 9th and 11th months of the contract, in the hope that people will forget to claim.

Some problems encountered by customers are slow or 'missing claims' - they've sent off the required paperwork but the retailer has denied receipt, complete denial that cashback is even due or terms and conditions 'miraculously' disappearing once an online purchase is complete, thus leaving the customer with no proof they're due cashback. Some customers have even been ignored completely. Some retailers require their customers to send back every single statement for that period when claiming, rather than just the latest one. They then refuse to pay out any cashback for the remainder of the contract if you miss even a single one.

Retailers rely on the fact that the British public likes a bargain. Offering cheap mobile phones with the promise of your money back sounds like a deal too good to be true. Well, in most cases it is.

So how can you avoid getting stung by the cashback deal?

Rule 1: keep ALL paperwork; contracts, correspondence, statements, everything. Print out the terms and conditions and keep them in a safe place, even highlighting the cashback section if you need to.

Rule 2: Keep a good stock of envelopes and stamps so you can be sure of sending off your statements as soon as you need to. Find out the exact dates you will need to do this and mark them on your calendar or in your diary. Or set an alert on your phone!

Rule 3: When sending off the requires paperwork, double check you are sending off everything that is required, and send it recorded delivery. That way, the retailer cannot possibly claim they never received it.

Rule 4: Make sure you read carefully and understand the T&C of the contract. If there is anything on there you don't understand, look it up online for clarification.

Rule 5: Look at other mobile phones that have the same features, and try and find one without a cashback deal.

Rule 6: Get a pay as you go phone if you can afford it. That way, there will be no contracts to jump up and bite you, and you will own the phone outright.

If you've already had trouble with a cashback deal, or anticipate that you might have, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for guidance.

Cell Phones
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