MOBILE networks have come under fire for selling Huawei phones that could soon stop working properly.
Confused Brits who have paid for Huawei smartphones are now demanding refunds after Google confirmed plans to “blacklist” the company – potentially making the phones worse.
Huawei phone owners have been warned that their devices may no longer receive major Android updates that provide new features.
And Google has been unable to confirm whether some services – like Google Maps or Gmail – will also be blocked on Huawei phones.
The move, which was sparked by an executive order from US President Donald Trump, has left some Huawei phone owners unhappy with their blowers.
“I wonder what action EE is going to take for Huawei owners like myself who are in contract but now, presumably, have a phone that won’t be updated in good time and could even be locked out of some key app access,” wrote Twitter user @BenParfitt.
Huawei customer fury
Another said: “Dear EE, where do I stand regarding my Huawei and lack of future support from Google?
“Are you planning on offering customers a suitable alternative or replacement device?”
The queries weren’t just targeted at EE, either.
“If at any stage updates are unavailable and my phone becomes a paperweight then Vodafone or Huawei should allow me to end my contract without a fee as they will have broken terms their end,” said @danfordy on Twitter.
A potential Virgin Mobile customer said: “Would you advise anyone thinking of getting a Huawei phone from virgin media to hold of until the position is clearer?”
And an O2 customer asked: “O2 if my Huawei loses significant functionality due to software problems can I replace the phone FOC [free of charge]?”
Another said: “O2 what will happen to those of us who are on plans and continuing to pay for a device that will have no further updates?
“I feel like I’ve been given the short straw.”
‘Trapped in contracts’
Brits are rightly confused about the fact that their hard-earned smartphone might no longer work as intended.
Speaking to The Sun, Which? called on phone networks to better-inform customers – and make sure they’re not stuck in dodgy contracts.
“With uncertainty around the future of Huawei handsets, it’s important that retailers give people all of the necessary information required to make an informed buying decision – including the potential implications of changes to Android access,” said Kate Bevan, Which? Computing Editor.
“It would be unacceptable for any consumer to find themselves in a position where they are trapped in a two-year contract with a mobile phone that may not work as expected.”
Scorned owners’ rights
The bad news for Brits is that getting out of a contract – or bagging some compensation – is very tricky.
We spoke to Mark Woloshak, a Principal Lawyer at London’s Slater and Gordon, who said it may be possible to get your money back on a purchased Huawei phone.
“If you received a phone within the last 30 days, under the Consumer Rights Act you can return the phone to the supplier on the basis that it is not in satisfactory condition, or fit for purpose,” he explained.
Mark explained that you could argue that your phone is “no longer fit for purpose”.
“Your starting position would be that you bought a phone that does XYZ, and what’s happened now is that the phone is going to do X and Y, but you argue that it won’t do Z any more,” he told us.
However, Brits could be scuppered by a legal loophole that protects Huawei.
“There is an area of law called force majeure, which basically entitles a party to get out of its obligations of a contract if it has been prevented by reasons out of its control,” he said.
“This was caused by a third-party acting under the influence of government, therefore Huawei may not be held responsible.
“They can’t just say that however – they have to have the force majeure in a contract.
“If they don’t have the clause, you could argue under the Consumer Rights Act. If they do, you may have a problem.”
He added that if you purchased your phone online, you can return it within 14 days – no questions asked.
“You would have 14 days to send it back, whether it’s in bad or good condition,” Mark told us, citing distance-sale regulations.
Expert view: Is it safe to buy a Huawei phone?
Here’s what CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood told The Sun…
- “We still don’t have a clear understanding of what Google has told Huawei and what elements of the Android operating system may be restricted, so it remains unclear what the ramifications will be.
- “However, any disruption in getting updates to the software or the associated applications would have considerable implications for Huawei’s consumer device business.
- “People who currently own Huawei smartphones do not need to worry. At present any measures would only affect future devices and future updates.
- “Google has publicly stated that its App Store, Google Play, and security updates from Google Play Protect will continue working on existing Huawei devices.
- “However, until we have a clear understanding of what exact measures Google has decided to take it is impossible to second guess the impact on future devices.
- “Huawei has been working hard on developing its own App Gallery and other software assets in a similar manner to the work it has done on developing its own chipsets for phones. There is little doubt these efforts are part of its desire to control its own destiny.
- “Last year, CCS Insight predicted that tensions between the China and the US would present a strong incentive for Chinese companies to create their own operating system for smart devices. Given recent developments that seems more likely than ever.”
UK networks respond
We asked for comment on the Huawei fiasco from a number of the UK’s top networks.
A Vodafone spokesperson said: “We have seen the communication from Android and are waiting on an update to best advise our customers.
“We are continuing to advise customers based on Android’s statement posted yesterday.”
A Virgin Mobile spokesperson said: “We’re working closely with Google and Huawei, and will be able to advise our customers when we know more.”
An O2 spokesperson said: “Google have confirmed that for existing Huawei and Honor smartphone users things will stay the same for now, and customers don’t need to take any action.”
EE and Three failed to respond to repeated requests for comment. We’ll update this story with any response.
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Are you worried about Huawei smartphones? Let us know in the comments!