Carphone Warehouse has been fined £29m by the UK’s financial watchdog for mis-selling its ‘Geek Squad’ insurance policies to thousands of customers.
The ‘Geek Squad’ package offered mobile phone insurance as well as technical support – but the retailer’s staff weren’t trained to assess customers’ needs, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has found. As a result, thousands of customers were persuaded to buy Geek Squad even though they already held mobile phone cover through their home insurance or bank accounts.
Which? explains why Carphone Warehouse was fined and what you can do if you think you’ve been mis-sold Geek Squad.
Why was Carphone Warehouse fined?
Carphone Warehouse staff weren’t sufficiently trained to identify what customers needed, the FCA has found, and were encouraged to use ‘spin selling techniques’ to overcome some people’s qualms.
Staff were told to focus on selling the product’s benefits, even when a customer indicated they already had insurance. Staff were also trained to overcome customer objections.
As an example, if a customer said they may already have a cover, they were told to buy Geek Squad anyway and cancel within 14 days – with customers then responsible for cancelling on time to avoid payments.
If a customer then complained about the sale of Geek Squad, it was found that the company failed to properly investigate and consider complaints. In some cases, valid complaints of mis-selling were rejected.
The FCA also found the company ignored warning signs that pointed to potential mis-selling. Between December 2008 and June 2015, 35% of Geek Squad sales were cancelled within the first three months of purchase – which should have tipped the company off to a potential issue, the FCA found.
- Find out more: how to complain about your insurer
How much was the fine?
In total, the company was fined £29,107,600. Putting that in context, in the six-and-a-half years it was under investigation, Carphone Warehouse made more than £444.7m from sales of Geek Squad policies (though that does not account for the policies that were refunded).
Carphone Warehouse agreed to accept the findings of the FCA, which meant it received a 30% discount on its fine. Otherwise, it could have faced a penalty of £41.582m.
What if I was mis-sold Geek Squad?
If you think you were mis-sold Geek Squad, you should contact Carphone Warehouse.
You can either:
- Phone on 0800 049 6190
- Send a letter to Geek Squad, PO Box 358, Southampton, SO30 2PJ
- Go online at www.geeksquad.co.uk/contact/
Mis-selling will apply if you weren’t given suitable advice, the risks of a product weren’t explained to you, or you weren’t given the information you needed to choose the right product.
If you’re not satisfied with Carphone Warehouse’s response, you can make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Beware of claims management companies
In the wake of mis-selling scandals, claims management companies may promise to secure you compensation in exchange for a fee. But once the company takes its cut, you may end up with up to 40% less than you would by pursuing the claim yourself.
For drawn-out or complicated claims, you may see the value in using a claims management company.
However, there’s no formal compensation scheme in place for Carphone Warehouse customers who have been mis-sold, so there may be little a claims management company can do for you. Be wary, therefore, of companies offering to manage your claim for a fee.
If you feel you’ve been mis-sold, your best bet is to contact Carphone Warehouse directly.
Do I need mobile phone insurance?
Electronic retailers are keen to sell customers their in-house insurance policies, but you may already have sufficient cover.
Gadgets like mobile phones are often covered under your home insurance (or contents insurance if you’re renting), even when you’re out of the house. You should check your policy to see if your gadgets are covered, and any limits on the amount you can claim.
Some packaged bank accounts also offer mobile phone insurance as standard.
If you do want a separate mobile phone policy, it pays to shop around. You can find out more in our guide to finding the best mobile phone cover.
- Show your tech who’s boss: Get expert technical support and buying advice – home printers, computers, tablets, smartphones, TVs, broadband and more from as little as £5 per month with Which? Tech Support.