Belfast Telegraph

Blind army veteran’s phone row resolved

By Christine Carrigan

A mobile phone provider has relented and allowed a blind army veteran to return a phone that proved to be unsuitable for him.

Christopher Bennett (32) claims he had been assured by EE that he would have 14 days to return the phone when he called at a branch in Ann Street, Belfast, to renew his contract.

However, after getting home, Mr Bennett, who is originally from Coventry but now lives in Northern Ireland, soon realised that the phone was not suitable for his disability.

He tried to return the phone in store, but was told that this was not possible because the 14-day refund policy only applied to contracts sold over the phone.

Mr Bennett, who has been registered blind for 13 years, contacted the Belfast Telegraph because he felt that he was getting nowhere with EE's customer service team.

"I was given a wicked sales pitch, so good that it changed my mind, to switch brands after being a dedicated Samsung user for eight years," he said. "When I got home and tried to use it, I realised that it wasn't suitable for my disability. I couldn't read the texts or anything, but on top of that, there was a manufacturing fault and I couldn't access some of the settings."

Mr Bennett phoned EE customer services and was told that "as a one-off" the company would take the phone back and that they would send him packaging for it to be returned in.

However, the packaging never arrived and a follow-up phone call led to the same result. By then, there was a small crack on the bottom of the screen.

It was during a third phone call to EE that Mr Bennett was told that he would have to get the Huawei P10 Plus fixed before he could send it back.

Mr Bennett said EE then demanded that he fix the phone before sending it back - something that would have cost £110.

"I am blind, of course it is going to get damaged, I go through phones like I go through shoes," he said.

"I am enraged by them, if they had taken the phone back when they first said that they would, then it wouldn't have got damaged.

"The charging port has also broke since then, so now the phone is completely useless.

"My phone is my lifeline as I have no family over here. I feel like I have lost my support network."

EE, who was contacted by the Belfast Telegraph,  has since waived the charges and Mr Bennett can return the phone to them as it is.

In a statement, EE said: "We take our responsibilities seriously, and strive to help every customer as much as possible. We believe that our store staff advised Mr Bennett correctly, offering him a large screen device (Huawei P10 plus), which comes with a number of customisable accessibility options."

"After Mr Bennett let us know the device wasn’t working out for him, our store staff asked him to speak to our customer services team over the phone to best help.

"As a gesture of goodwill, our customer services team said Mr Bennett could return and exchange his device at no charge.

"However, an admin error meant that the returns envelope was not dispatched.

"Subsequently, another customer services agent then unfortunately misread a note on Mr Bennett’s file, and asked him to pay for the damage incurred to the handset before accepting the return – this is standard policy under usual circumstances.

"We apologise to Mr Bennett for the error.

"Our customer services team has spoken with Mr Bennett again to arrange for the device to be exchanged at no cost, and Mr Bennett is happy with the outcome."

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