Phone warranty voided by "water damage"? Here's what to do about it

20 October 2008

Let's be honest folks. Plenty of us tell fibs when we're caught out. One of the more common is "I've no idea how that happened" whether we're referring to the smashed vase or the naked person in bed that isn't the one we're married to.

Or the mobile phone that's been dunked in the toilet / bath / fifth pint of Stella. Phone retailers refuse free repairs to handsets "contaminated by a liquid" as it voids the warranty, but it's probably fair to say that many of us try our luck anyway.

But what if you're adamant your phone's never had an unexpected wash? Some sites mention indicator stickers within the phone casing (both visible and invisible) that change colour when exposed to water (or even moisture), though nobody seems sure what level of exposure triggers a colour change. And while the retailer may void your warranty, they rarely provide a scrap of proof other than a one sentence explanation.

Guess we have to take the man's word for it, right? Well, maybe you don't. We've got a plan, and we'd like your help to see if it works.

If your mobile goes on the fritz within six months of purchase and you're sure it's never been exposed to liquid, then the good news is you've got the law on your side. The Sales of Good Act states that if a consumer chooses to request a repair or replacement, then for the first six months after purchase it will be for the retailer to prove the goods did conform to contract.

In other words, it's not enough for the retailer to void your warranty by simply blaming liquid contamination; they have to prove that the fault didn't exist when the phone was sold. The real-world interpretation is that the retailer has to provide evidence that liquid is responsible for the fault.

With this in mind, here's what we suggest, with some tips from Mobot;

- Submit your phone for repair through the usual channels.

- If you're told your phone can't be repaired due to liquid contamination, politely ask for proof, given that you don't recall any incident that might have caused it. You may be told that while a report about your phone was created, you're not allowed to see it. Hmmph.

- Start quoting the law; point out that the Sales of Goods Act means the retailer must provide evidence that the fault was caused by liquid and not an existing fault. The retailer's recourse might be to say the law isn't applicable because the cause is established; don't swallow it - any proof has to be shared for the cause to be established. That's what established means, see.

- If you still get nowhere, threaten action in a small claims court, in which you seek to recoup the cost of a new handset or the cost of cancelling the contract. After all, you either need a replacement handset or you have to cancel the contract so you can begin another.

- At this point, the retailer should be keen to provide evidence of the liquid damage or offer some sort of olive branch. No company in their right mind will hire legal representation to the tune of several thousand pounds to settle a disputed repair. Don't quote us on that, though.

- If they make good with the proof and your phone has indeed been for a swim, then it's time for stern words with the kids. If not, then decide how far you want to take it. Remember that the burden of proof is on the retailer, and that it shouldn't take court action to have them provide you with evidence of the fault; the law states they have to do so.

If you've first-hand experience of tackling retailers over the matter, leave a comment and let us know how you fared. Is there really a conspiracy amongst retailers or do we all need to be a little more honest with ourselves?

Photo by BigPru on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

TOPICS:   Mobile

42 comments

  • Tally
    I purchased a refurbished phone which was damaged from the day I got it. I took it in to carphonewarehouse and they told me to sod off and said i had opened the phone. i havent done anything since but the phone is still faulty. can anything be done? i dont think there is any warranty left but its less than 6 months old.(refurbished warranty is less)
  • Sean
    Tally, If it didn't work on purchase it is considered an inherant fault for the purposes of the SGA 1979. As Paul explained above this means that there is a "reversed burden of proof" ie first 6 months they must prove it was you that caused it. The article clearly goes to the heart of your problem - goods must last a reasonable time (this isn't fixed but within the discretion of the court, and will depend on if item was new/ refurbished etc/ price paid/ any faults pointed out prior to purchase etc). Take a look at the govt website I have linked to - should explain anything I'v missed in this brief explanation. The Citizens Advice Center (or Community Legal Advice Centre if you are lucky enough to be local to one) should be able to help if you think you have a genuine claim against carphone warehouse. Also links to primary sources should anyone else be in the same positions: http://www.johnantell.co.uk/SOGA1979.htm http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1994/Ukpga_19940035_en_1.htm http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2002/20023045.htm & handy websites that offer support http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/ http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
  • Paul Nikkel EDITOR
    Thanks for the links and the learned comment Sean!
  • Tally
    Thanks for your reply. I will be calling Consumer Direct today :)
  • GUS
    Oh no! This article is very good, pity it is too late. The bloody 3 network sent me a nokia 6280 which developed a fault within 2 months of very light use. Send to the warranty department TWICE and they sent it back as "damaged rather than faulty". they claimed that I caused the damaged and refused to fix it.
  • Mike
    I bought an n97 from 3 mobile, problems from the start - sent it for repair twice, first time they flashed it said it was working - still had same problem (constantly crashing/turning off), sent it back and they returned it saying they couldn't find a problem. Finally the phone totally died, sent it off a third time, now they reckon it was water damage! Trying to tell them it wasn't water damaged results in total confusion. I am repeatedly told that I only have two options: either early upgrade or buy a phone up front. They are getting back to me in 24-48hrs ??
  • Shez
    i bought an N8 Nokia from 3(contract), its broken 3 times in just 8 months. First time they repaired and it was broken within 2 months. 2nd time tthey repaired and was broken again very soon. and nowwwww 3rd time they said it is water damage, so they cant repair.i have told them there was no water contact. They told me same options as Mike have mentioned above. What to do now??
  • Paul D.
    My less than 6 month old Samsung Galaxy S2 suddenly stopped charging and would refuse to switch on. I took it to car phone warehouse who sent it off for repair. After 3 weeks it was returned with a blurry picture of my USB port saying it cannot be repaired and is not covered by warranty due to water ingress. It has never been near any water and I had looked after it with due care (as you would with a £500 phone). The other thing that I am annoyed about is when it broke my pc still recognised it plugged in, after being returned it is now not recognised - I have even used another phone to charge thebattery. So, I thought, OK I will see if Samsung can give me a second opinion, it turns out Samsung use Carphone Warehouse as a repair centre. So now it seems pointless asking Samsung to repair under warranty. I have sent an email to Samsung customer service explaining this. I will have to wait and see if they offer a repair. If not I will see what trading Standards say. It seems to me like this water ingress could be used to get out of covering a phone repairs. I have never got it wet and Its down to my word against theirs. I am very upset with all this.
  • Paul M.
    I too have a Galaxy S and have sent it back to carphone warehouse for repair. This is the 2nd time as it had been cutting me off mid sentence for a while. I do not use my phone in the rain and never take it in the bathroom. There is no way water damage could have occured as they suggested.(water ingress) this must be a buzz word they use, for cannot be arsed to repair it. He suggested I could have spilt tea on it (told him I know it does a lot of things but never heard it being a teaspoon) he also suggested it could have got wet if I had been in a canoe (does he think I use it as an oar?) I am particular how I look after my phone and after seeing a BBC Watchdog programme about i phones setting water detectors off even when never been near water I have been extra careful about looking after my phone afterall it cost me a fortune. Carphone Warehouse use this as a get out no arguement clause.
  • Colin G.
    Same story - 8 months into a 2 year contract I am without a phone as the Samsung Ace I was given from T-Mobile started to vibrate and freeze the screen. After a couple of weeks it stopped altogether. I took it back to T-Mobile and was told all the guff about water ingress. I said it had never been near water, and was told there a hundreds of ways in which it could enter. The phone was sent away and suprise, suprise "cannot be fixed due to water ingress" How do I know the picture taken to prove this is (a) my phone or (b) the phone doctored to represent water damage. I was livid. I did recieve £70 back as a "sorry" after complaining to T-Mobile customer services, but that doesn't pay for a £200 mobile. Still not happy
  • Kip k.
    [...] comments in this BitterWallet thread suggest It common theme of Water Damage being used to not repair phones by [...]
  • J C.
    I got my phone in August, and a few weeks ago it just died and won't charge - long story short i have sent them the following. I'll try and keep you updated. Dear Sir/Madam, Thank you for your letter dated 10/12/2012 in regards to a faulty Samsung Galaxy S3 handset. As stated in your letter, you advise the phone is beyond economical repair due to water damage. I reject these finding as there has been no circumstance of this phone being in contact with water. I request under the sales of goods act for you to provide evidence to these findings, and also prove this item conformed to contract, and therefore was not already damaged at the point of sale. ‘The sales of goods act states that if a consumer chooses to request a repair or replacement, then for the first six months after purchase it will be for the retailer to prove the goods did conform to contract. ‘ If this evidence cannot be provided, then I request the handset to be replaced at no cost to myself, or some other agreed form of Alternative Dispute Resolution. I look forward to your reply.
  • djk_13
    I purchase a Blackberry Bold on 22/11/11 for £335.00, this phone started to have problems in April`2012, CPW replaced the phone on 02/05/12 (up untill the last couple of weeks did i realise they gave me a refurbed phone) This refurbed phone started having problems November 2012, i collected(on 04/12/12) what i thought was a repaired phone as per their repair report, clearly stating `your mobile is now working`? This report also had a picture of the susposed damage, in which i have been told that the picture does not belong to a blackberry? Anyway this phone did not work and after serveral phone calls and e-mails, they now tell me that they have given me the wrong report (they said they would supply me the correct one) but to no avail at moment? Is there anything i can do? Thank you
  • Lively
    Well i have a galaxy s3.. it died 24th dec in my hand while i was using it... I phoned samsung about it they recieved it for repair on jan 4th on jan 14th they told me it was water damage.. i said it has never been near water.. told them to send it back id claim on my insurance.. they sent me a photo with "proof" of the water damage.. i disputed it with them and they told me to get a second opinion.. i took it to independent service centre and he said there are no signs of water damage to my phone at all... i took photos of my disasembled phone.. and the part that samsungs service centre is saying was water damage is actually glue used by samsung themselves to hold the motherboard to the shell of the phone! samsung still refuse to fix my phone under warrenty (i brought it in june 2012) so the fight goes on! needless to say i wont be buying samsung again!
  • Krisha
    I need HELP! I got a samsung galaxy s3 from Three network on October 28, 2012. Last january 17, i woke up thinking that my phone is just battery empty I tried to charge it. But i've waited till around 1pm and it still wont open, so I decided to send it straight to 3 cause i was confident that its is under warranty since its only 2months old. After a week we recieved a letter saying that they wont repair it cause its been open by someone else and it voids the warranty. We've talked to the customer service a lot of time and cause we kept on telling them that we are not stupid enough to spend money to have it repair to someone else when we know it have 2 years warranty. So they said they got our point and they will re-check my phone. They send us a letter again this time they said it have a physical damage and still cant be repair under the warranty. Such RUBBISH! My phone doesn't have insurance and I swear I haven't drop it or done anything on it. It works perfectly fine until that happen. I've checked google and got a lot of sites which says that galaxy s3 users had been experiencing the "sudden death" which causes the phone to die for no reason and that is exactly what happen to my phone. I don't know what to do now. Three still have my phone and if I asked them to send it to the manufacturer they just might done the damage and blame it on us. Please I need advice :( thanks!
  • Vidyadhar N.
    Hi I have had the exact same problem with Samsung Galaxy s3. Phone suddenly stopped working one day about 2 weeks ago. Went to car phone warehouse and sent it for repair as it is hardly 6 months old. Today phoned them up they say they cannot repair it and there is liquid damage. What a load of rubbish. I have never dropped it in water or even splashed any liquid on it. Why don't Samsung and car phone warehouse own to the problem and stop telling lies. I will go to a small claims court. Will not let them get away with lies.
  • Bappa D.
    Same here and the Samsung Galaxy S3 again! Suddenly stopped charging, the rest of the phone work absolutely fine. I can charge the battery in other phones and the charger work fine too. Just got it back last night they said they cannot repair it due to Water Ingress. Like all of you I have not dropped my phone in water. Had I done so, I'm sure the rest of the phone would not be working instead of just the USB connecter. I have asked them for evidence, but after reading the above am not holding my breath. Did any of you have any joy through trading standards/small claims court?
  • Tarun K.
    Sir, I bought a mobile 3 months ago,i installed an application in that and phone stucked at company logo,that was just a software issue.i am aware of technical knowledge thats why m telling.I gave that phone to customer care and they tried to flash the software and they made the phone completely dead and told me that your phone will go to company for repair and they gave me a phone submitting slip under warranty.i asked them after 15 days about phone's status.They told that ph is ok,come and take it.When i went to them the phone was on the same dead condition and after wasting my half an hour they told me that your phone can't be repaired under warranty because there is liquid damage near headphones and charging port.Honestly,i have have never met such an incident that my phone contacted with watet.they are lying and asking me Rupee 12000 to repair it.What should i do can i file a case in consumer court. Please help me.
  • Radek
    To Vidyadhar Navale - have you had any luck with your situation? Mine is exactly the same, also with S3 and I've even received "evidence" of water ingress, which is a low quality photo, which doesn't really tell you much. The phone was nowhere near any liquid and yet stopped working suddenly and Samsung refuse to replace. I'll take it to court if I need to but would be good to see if you had any luck.
  • Perry L.
    Sent my S3 to Samsung under warranty ( 10 mths old) as GPS not working. Just received it back with warranty void as liquid ingress causing severe contamination. The phone has never been near water so seems like a common get out for Samsung. Taking it to an independent on Saturday.
  • Nasser h.
    Just took my wife's samsung note2 to EE. The mobile works in everyway except the phone network. EE took the cover off and said "it's out of warranty due to water ingress". We were livid as we know it has never ever ever been anywhere near water. The phone is 1 year old and has had a screen repair by a different insurance. We don't know what to do?! Help!
  • Kat 4.
    Exactly the same problem as many of the above, but what further action can be taken when they refuse point blank to refund/repair?
  • Jay
    my gxy s3 suddenly stopped working, I took it to Samsung repair centre, fore them to tell me 3 days later it was liquid damage... I told them it's impossible as I have not been near water, they said it has, I said no it hasn't (felt like a pantomime ). so they refuse to fix it unless I pay over £150 which I refused, what can I do , as still phone under contract and also under warranty .
  • Graeme
    The same has happened to me, I have put my phone in for repair due it not charging, they had no spare phones and I managed to find a charger that would charge my phone, so I limped along with a faulty phone .I eventually had to balance my phone on the wires to make a connection. So I finally took phone in when it finally died on me, however upon tracking the repair they are now saying that it has had water ingress and beyond repair
  • SIGITAS Z.
    I have note3. One day I drop the phone from my back pocket , about 30 or 40 cm high. After that the screen do not respond to spen, only respond to finger touches. And what was the a never from Samsung? YES!!!!U RIGHT!!! liquid damage:-) the phone only 3 weeks old. Lucky I have Barclay's insurance, they will fix it or replace for 20£ only.
  • KRM
    HTC one purchase 28.1.14, stopped working 4.7.14, took it back to phones 4u, phone was checked by manager and his colleague before it was sent off for repair, had no signs of water damage. 13.7.14 phones 4u repair centre contacted me, what a surprise!!!!! water damage, they want approx £400 for repair. I told them the phone had never come in contact with water, I was told by them water damage can be condensation, rain and get this sweat!!!!!! What a joke, they won't even provide me with photographic evidence even though they have been asked 3 times. Scammers and rip off merchants
  • unhappy
    happened to me samsung mini s3 died after 9mnth charging no water or vapour around carphone warehouse are thieves that must be held accountable for their lies what do i do!
  • Paul
    Sunday 3rd aug, my samsung galaxy s3 mini turned itself off and will not turn on (had battery power). Went to O2 shop and surprisingly, the lady in the line in front had exactly same issue. O2 said both phones from the same batch sold at same time and both failed at the same time. They recommended it would be quicker to go to the samsung store to get them looked at. I did not know samsung was carphone warehouse until they gave me the receipt for the repair. Guess what, result of analysis was beyond repair due to water damage which they say can be caused by taking a phone in and out of hot cold areas for example. If anyone been to Korea, it can get very humid so that means going in and out the office would cause it to fail which means the phones are not fit for purpose. For 2 phones to fail on the same day from the same batch has got to be something more than alleged "water damage" on both phones. The argument continues but water damage is not why this phone failed....
  • Ashwin
    Same case , my USB port charger and the charging pin in My google nexus tablet is burnt , and I got a respinse saying water ingress with the pictures , Ita a google tablet where I use it in living room , I am shocked and dissappointed by the water ingress issue -which is highly impossible and I do not agree . Please suggest me what should I do - Is samsung neglecting bcoz it a googlep product
  • SimonH
    I have just had a similar issue with my Samsung S3 Mini. It suddenly stopped charging, I thought it was the battery so bought a new one which worked initially but after going flat from the initial power that was in the battery, the new one didn't charge either. So I sent to O2 for repair under warranty. Guess what, "water damage" and the phone has just been returned to me covered in condensation. The phone is 13months old, has never been exposed to rain or a humid environment as suggested by O2. I've ordered a charger to try charging the batteries externally and limp through the remaining 10months until I can get an upgrade, but if anyone has any suggestions on getting this fixed I'd be grateful. I just don't feel its right to pay the £65.99 O2 have quoted when I've never got the phone wet and so it should be covered by the warranty.
  • Mike B.
    Exactly the same story with my 7 month old S4 mini.(Three Network...(never again)) It kept turning itself on and off repeatedly usually when using mobile data ie web or maps etc. On wifi it worked fine. I sent it in for repair and they told me it had liquid damage to the main board and they wanted me to stump up £150 for repair. I stated that it couldn't be water damage because of the nature of the fault, ie intermittent and only when using mobile data but they said the repair engineers report is final and they would not help me unless I paid up. I was furious, there's no way the phone has been near water or any liquid I told them and I accused them of trying to steal from me which is how I felt and still do. They said they'd send me photos of the damage to which I replied "don't bother, just return my phone to me" I will take it to an independent when it arrives back. Also, the repair centre is not actually Samsung, but a third party called Unipart, lying, cheating and thieving their way to profit in my opinion. Samsung?? Never ever again!!
  • Carl
    I have just experienced the same problem, also with an S3. I have written to Samsung and asked for any suggestion how this damage could occur. I speculated that if it is liquid damage the. It could be due to vapour from change in temperature during normal use, but if that's the case it's not fit for purpose. I got a stock response. I am very near the end of my contract so it isn't a big deal but I am furious that they can just dismiss claims like this. If they are using the moisture indicators to cover up faulty components failing then it is fraud. I hiope the problem is resolved after the S 3 which is where most of the issues reported and discussed online seem to have occurred.
  • Richard M.
    My 6 week old Samsung Galaxy Mini S3 developed distortion when listening to calls. It was more of a mechanical resonance rather than an electronic noise. Anyway, on Vodafone's advice I took it to my ,local Vodafone store. The guy in there took the back off the phone and said 'Here's your problem' as he pointed towards what looked like a yellowy sticky glue substance, which was all around the inside of the phone as well as on the inside of the back of the phone. I was as puzzled as he was and I agreed for him to send it for repair. I know the phone has never been in liquid or exposed to extremes of temperature etc and certainly never exposed to any glue like substance. To my horror the phone has been returned from the repair centre with a note saying 'your device is beyond repair.' So I am faced with 22 months of my contract remaining on a phone I cannot use. Reading a post by 'Lively' (January 25th 2913)suggests possible contamination from the glue that holds the motherboard to the inside of the case. I feel a letter to BBC Watchdog coming on!
  • Leah J.
    Be Careful off EE shops. I took my phone in as the sim stopped working due the metal contacts. The phone worked fine over WIFI for what's app and internet just wouldn't register sim. The guys in the EE shop took the phone out the back out of my sight and came back saying the warranty was null and void as the phone had been watered damaged as there as an orange spot indicator on back......this was not showing before they took my phone out of my sight. Please take a picture of the back of your phone before handing it over as this has become a nightmare to sort out. I know 100% the was phone had NOT suffered water damage. One big SCAM !!!
  • shilpi
    my phone be in repair for three for the same fault. the first repair was within the first six month of my contract i complained saying my phone been hacked from a sperm text message call kept doping and and keeping going to voice message. i didn't know this law unit i was given your website link via a friend. i was inform third time my phone been replaced with new phone now the problem is the phone doesn't update soft ware also the phone black out message appeared on the stating SOS is damaged i open the phone saw liquid inside the phone i took my phone to vodaphone one the advise said i need to dry the phone and come back even though it wasn't in water damage because repair center would look at saying it water damge it which made me bit confused . drying didnt work at all so i put my phone in repair .i was told it will be economically not repairable it will cost far too ect.. i put for dispute with voda phone it was refused as the reapir centre didnt want have second look at i been with out my phone for month now im using basic phone which i had pursed from voda phone which doesnt have internet connection within my contact im paying for internet. please advise me what step i can take with this phone provide im going write complain to head office providing all record of time i put the phone for repair.
  • John
    My 4 month old galaxy s6 died so took into the service centre and surprise surprise to my absolute shock they said sorry sir but it has some residue so is not covered under the warranty. Similar to many people I'm 100% sure my phone hasn't been near any water and has lived in a wallet case the whole time. So if liquid has ingressed from everyday use such as being in your pocket while outside then surely these devices aren't fit for purpose. They have me over a barrell so I've had to pay 180 to get it fixed but I'm still planning on taking Samsung to the small claims court. I asked for proof as per the article and they are sending me images of residue but is that classed as proof of failure in my eyes not and hopefully the courts. If anyone has gone to court please share your experiences as we shouldn't let these corporations rip us off.
  • Sheryl
    I have the same problem John. I bought a Samsung A3 on the 25th Oct and on the 25th Nov it totally died. It had started to heat up the day before so I had switched it off. Next day it wouldn't even start. I took it to the retailer I had bought it from 4 weeks earlier and they sent it off to be serviced then the fun started. I was informed rather brusquely tht it had moisture damage. Now I know very well the closest it had come to moisture was a bit of sweat while being carried in my pocket. Now if it is going to die from being carried in my pocket it's not a lot of help to me. It is going to cost me $185 to be repaired or if I don't want to pay that it will be $80 for the assessment. They sent me a photo of the motherboard to prove the damage but they may as well have sent me a photo of their brain. Meant nothing to me. It may even not have been my phone for all I know! Now what can I do? I have just paid big bickies for a phone now am being stung for more money. It may have already had the damage before I got it. Please can someone help me with advice.
  • Bryan
    This problem needs to be sorted out. My four month old Samsung galaxy s6 was working fine but started to lose battery life So returned it to o2 who sent it back after 3 days and said it was water damaged so warranty was void. The phone after I got it back would not even turn on. It has now been back to o2 6 times they are a complete waste of time.
  • Nicola
    Just going through a similar issue right now. a message popped up on the phone saying it could not finish charging. I could smell burning. so I unplugged my phone which was cold but the charging cable (Samsung original) was yellow, hot and the micro USB was black and melted. Took it to the Samsung shop and was told it was water damage. argued that it's not been in water, he said, "I can tell without looking its water damage and so not covered by warranty" I'm standing there holding the burnt charging lead but he was not interested. they took it all anyway to see if it can be repaired. but based on his attitude I am doubtful it will be. Seems water damage is their go-to response.
  • Fridoun
    Hello My Samsung sIII mini keeps runing out of battery. I sent to be repared becaous it was still under warranty. Samsung says: The codensation in phone voids the warranty. But my phone never has been exposed to water .
  • Chris L.
    i have just collected my s6 edge and been told it has water damage. It first went for repair on the 5/3 and was returned 2 weeks later the fault(volume button) was repaired, however i noticed after use that the signal which before hand had been great was very poor. i.e could not open an email compared to previously able to stream music. So i sent it off again they sent it back after 2 weeks with a sheet saying unable to repair due to water damage with 2 pictures. i have had the phone less than 6 months and i am always careful, in 10 years my phones have always been in perfect condition. What can i do?
  • Poochie
    I'm absolutely livid! I've had my Samsung S6 since August 2015 (in fact I took out a handset for my husband at the same time), but two weeks ago it suddenly stopped charging. I took it to Carphone Warehouse, were it was purchased and they sent it away for repair to a Samsung repair centre. On Monday, I received a call to say...wait for it..."I'm afraid the phone has water damage and because you don't have insurance, its going to cost you £250 to repair - if we can repair it". I'm fuming because the phone was working ok and even passed the diagnostic test carried out in-store, it just stopped charging and has certainly NOT BEEN IN OR EXPOSED TO WATER OR STEAM, OR RAIN, some of the likely causes suggested by the repair centre. I am so upset by this and went and collected the phone from them. The thing is, I'm still tied into a contract with EE which if I cancel, it will cost me and I'm paying monthly for a phone I can't use....What do I do? Any advice greatly appreciated.

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