how carphone warehouse took my iphone & ruined my credit rating

Last Friday I queued up with all the other early adopting Apple fan boys to collect my new 3g iphone on launch day. I took photos of it. I hyped it. I even taught my two year old to say "daddy gotted iPhone" in anticipation of my shiny new toy. As of a short time ago, I no longer have that iPhone and have a ruined credit rating to boot. Here’s what happened…

I’d pre-ordered from Carphone Warehouse which, when 02 ran out of stock prior to the launch, still had a few of the 16gb version available. I ordered it and got a confirmation that I’d passed the credit check. Then I got another email, saying they’d run out of stock. A day later, I got yet another email saying that I did in fact manage to secure an iphone and it would be delivered to the branch of Carphone Warehouse at London Bridge Station, as I’d specified.

So on Friday I came in to London early and joined the queue at the shop only to be turned away an hour later when staff told us it was unlikely any of us would be leaving with an iPhone because their system was down.

I went back after lunch and collected my iPhone. They didn’t check my ID, ask for me to sign, look at a receipt or anything. I just walked in, told them my name and was handed an iPhone. I took it back to the office and showed it to my envious colleagues. Then I tried to sync it with iTunes which, as those who tried to do the same on Friday know, took many attempts – in my case, several an hour for around 12 hours. Eventually it worked. I registered. I put some of my music from itunes onto the iPhone. I waited patiently for my iPhone to register on 02, the network provider chosen by Apple in the UK.

Friday 1:07 pm 7/11/08 London, England

I waited. And I waited until Sunday when I could wait no more and went into my local branch of Carphone Warehouse where I bought a nice case for my iPhone and asked when it would be online. The member of staff there laughed and said it could be another day or two, such had the problems been on launch day.

On Tuesday, a fully 96 hours after I’d collected my phone, I began to get a bit upset. It still wasn’t on the network. I phoned the Carphone Warehouse helpline. The friendly person on the other end asked me my details and found my order but said that, as far as she could tell, it was still open.

I hadn’t, from what she could see, collected or paid for my phone.

I explained that I did in fact have it. She phoned someone in their web sales department, then another in their IT department, trying to close the order so that I could get connected to the network. After a while she asked if I’d prefer for her to phone me back. I said yes but, two hours later, still hadn’t heard from her and went home for the day.

On Wednesday I phoned again. They tried to do the same as the previous helpline employee and also encountered difficulties. They suggested I take my iPhone to the shop where I’d bought it which, at the end of the day, I did despite realising that I could probably have simply kept the thing without ever paying for it.

On Wednesday evening I spent an hour in Carphone Warehouse at London Bridge Station. The staff were genuinely helpful and here’s what they found out:

1. I’d ordered my phone and asked for it to be delivered to one of two Carphone Warehouse outlets at London Bridge listed on the website.
2. That London Bridge shop had actually been closed… more than 3 years ago.
3. The City Link courier knew that the other shop was closed so delivered, as it was on his daily round, my iPhone to the store where I collected it.
4. Only the store that no longer existed could close the order.

The guy in the shop tried to sort it out over the phone and, after an hour, got the store helpline people to cancel my original order. I then went home so it could go through the system.

Today I spoke to the manager. He had the phone transfered into his system, reopened the order, and set everything up so that at lunch all I’d need to do is pop in and confirm my identity using a chip and pin credit card. I did this but it wasn’t at all straight forward and what happened next is totally unbelievable.

I could see on his screen that I had passed the credit check done originally. I could also see that there had been a subsequent check made, also passed. I’d asked the manager earlier, and had been assured that, no subsequent credit check would be made on me. For those who aren’t familiar with the system, each credit check undertaken actually reduces your credit rating, particularly if you happen to get declined.

I wasn’t pleased, but the excitement of my iPhone finally getting onto the phone network – after 6 days – kept me from getting upset.

Then there was some sort of problem with the system so I was asked to do the chip and pin check again, which I did. Again this was fine. He hit some buttons and told me I’d have to have a new sim card. I selected a number from the screen, he put it in the system and hit some buttons. Suddenly there was a problem. He could see the results of the two previous credit checks on screen but the system was telling him to contact Carphone Warehouse because another credit check had been run and I’d failed.

The manager explained this and calmly called the store support line who he spoke with for around half an hour. It transpires that they’d actually run as many as five credit checks on me (he wasn’t entirely sure) and that although I’d passed the earlier ones, I’d failed the last one – precisely because they kept running them and, perhaps, because they’d authorised, deauthorised, then authorised my setting up of a new account with 02.

After hanging up the phone, the manager told me that I could, if I want to, go to the Carphone Warehouse and immediately order an iPhone and, because I’d already passed the credit check there, they wouldn’t run another one.

Yeah, right.

Then he told me that the phone – the iPhone I’d queued up for and, as far as I knew, had paid for, installed stuff on, put music on, personalised, etc – was in his store’s stock. He was very sorry, but he couldn’t let me leave the shop with the iPhone because it belonged to Carphone Warehouse, not me.

So I handed it over.

Because of the incompetence of Carphone Warehouse I was given a phone, after quite a long time waiting in queues, that I never should have been given. And because of Apple’s incompetence in planning for the sale of millions of the new iPhones, I had to spend hours trying to sync that iPhone. I spent hours then switching the phone on and off hoping that would trigger the network ping from 02 needed to activate it. I moved music, some of it purchased from the iTunes store and thus with DRM which limits the number of devices I can install that content on, over to the iPhone. I spent hours configuring bits and pieces of software, downloading apps (over wifi) and getting to know my new phone. I spent several hours at the Carphone Warehouse store and on the phone trying to sort it out.

Up to that point I didn’t have a working phone but at least my credit rating was in tact. Now, because I was honest and took a phone that had been given to me with NO attempt to verify my identity, acquire my signature, or anything else – making it totally untraceable – back to the store beacause I just wanted it to work, I’ve now come home with NO IPHONE and a RUINED CREDIT RATING.

So thanks Steve for the new iPhone and for choosing as your partners a company that has demonstrated to me over several days and several ways that they are totally and utterly incompetent.


  1. I feel your pain. My story (still to be resolved) is even MORE bizarre. However, as far as I know CPW haven’t damaged my credit rating. If I remember, I’ll track back to this post when I write my epic story of sometimes outstanding, sometimes diabolical customer service mixed up with some genuine mistakes and a large portion of poor supply chain management.

  2. I am so sorry to hear your news. I honestly don’t know what to say! What are you going to do next?

  3. It has to be said that this is a good illustration of why it’s a bad idea to be an early adopter. Better to wait until the technology, infrastructure and supply problems are sorted out.
    You need to contact the credit reference agencies and explain what happened, and hopefully they will remove the multiple checks from your file. Keep a record of any costs you incur (fees, phone calls, plus lost iTunes tracks etc.) and issue an invoice to Carphone Warehouse afterwards. Once it’s all sorted out, buy an iPhone from somewhere else (why not online direct from 02?) By then the teething problems will hopefully have been sorted out too!

  4. It seems that when companies grow in size and business they are less managable. They pass you off to customer service people who cannot overide the system and cannot resolve your problems. All they can do is give you some generic answer and apologize. Customer service is getting so bad throughout the world that they might as well get rid of it; You would get the same results without them. I don’t understand how any company can be allowed to operate in this manner.

  5. I too am suffering from Carphone Warehouse’s catastrophic customer service. It is also an epic story.
    although I activated the phone via Itunes, there is no phone service. Endless telephone calls, no replies, they blame O2 or Apple, O2 blame them. Its like a blame ping pong match which never resolves anything.
    Is there any end in sight to this. I first ordered the phone on July 11th – I am not sure how much of this I can physically stand.
    Has anybody successfully managed to cancel their contract and get compensation?

  6. Trust me, I know all too well your pain! Apologies for the rant but this is my experience and it looks like I wasn’t alone.
    3 days ago, I too ordered the IPhone through the website and had it delivered to a store branch, not to the billing address as no one would be there to sign for it during the week. This way I thought “Hey! Great idea, I can pick it up on my lunch hour”… big mistake!
    Yesterday, I got courrier confirmation it had been delivered so I went to the store. At first the guy looked at me almsot puzzled (I think the question going through his brain was probably “what is this internet you speak of?” O_o) and insisted the phone wasn’t there. 10 minutes later I finally got him to go and check (up until this point he refused to go and check), he returned 2 mins later with it in his hand(score 1 me!). He went through the verification procdeure (he didn’t have a clue what he was doing by the looks of it) and asked for my driver license and verification by chip and pin. He said he would need to charge me £1 and then refund it in order to verify the card. “No problem” was my response. He run it, screwed up, ran it again, screwed up again! And finally on the 3rd time got it right. Only problem here was the terminal said “further verification needed”. This took me 30 mins to get to this stage so far. He then said something along the lines of “I cannot verify this card so I can’t give you the phone…” (at this point the money had already been deducted from my account, so there I am £100 lighter but only allowed to “look but don’t touch”) “… you need to cancel the order and try again”. My response simply was, “Why?!, I’ve paid for it, here’s my card, there’s my bankstatement to say you’ve taken the money, here’s my drivers license complete with address, you know I am who I say I am. It says right there on the screen this is the billing address you are matching it to and it matches my license” Again with a dumbfounded look that cavemen probably had he repeated the same line back to me “… you need to cancel the order and try again”. We went round in a circle like this for 15 more minutes, and again I only ever received the exact same response, word-for-word. Annoyed I called the manager and he said there’s nothing they can do about it, it must be verified by chip and pin as this was something apple has told them they must do (yeah right!). So I got them to call customer services and I spoke to them regarding this but each time it seemed I was getting somewhere they needed to talk to the dumbfounded employee and it seems he would undo what progress I made. 1.5 hours later still no IPhone in my hand.
    Needing a break, I went away and rang customer services from my office, and nice lady actually told me (these are not her exact words, but it was along these lines) “They shouldn’t have done that. This is just for confirming ID, we’ve confirmed we have received payment. We had problems with chip and pin verification a little while ago but we thought it was sorted. Please go back to the store and tell them this and they should give it to you, if they still refuse please get them to call me. I’ve attached my name to the record and a note regarding this”. Excellent! Some good news finally …..
    Went back there, and dumbfounded guy was messing up someone else’s order it looked like and I was ignored for 20 minutes. Seriously annoyed I left and said I would be back in the morning
    Finally I have reached todays events. Went there in the morning and thank god HE wasn’t thee to screw things up. Tried again with a different person. Put the card through and it said the same message. Before I got there this morning I remember reading a blog somewhere someone had there card blocked because of constant carphone warehouse screw ups so I took a punt. Called my bank and what do you know, because dumbfounded guy screwed up so much I had a block on my card because they thought someone stole it and it was being used fraudulantly (not sure if that’s a proper word). Removed the block after going through the check (30 mins into todays attempt) and they said it would take 15 mins to propogate around the systems and become active again. Ok, I told CW I would be back in 30 mins (gave extra time). 30 mins later card still didn’t work apparantly. So they canceled the order completely and said let’s try running an in-store one, done that but this time it came up with FAILED! This may mean my credit rating is completely screwed.
    Extremely annoyed, I cancelled everything and they said they would refund me the money, got back to the office; wrote 4 emails of complaint along with this response here.
    The stupid thing about this is:
    If I selected home billing address I wouldn’t have to verify by chip and pin and could have avoided all this agro!
    Let’s hope when I order this friday and have it delivered to my home when I’m around, they haven’t screwed my credit rating like they did yours, but judging by that second terminal response, it looks like they have!
    Wanna burn down the store togeather? It’ll be fun :-)

  7. Oh my goodness, I thought it was just me…
    This week, I finally received my PAC code for my old phone (my old network has no reception in my new house so I’ve spent a year not being able to use my phone at home, it’s driving me nuts). I spend ages choosing a phone, not a brand new one, but a decent, reliable one with good write ups that I can get a great deal on. Therefore I went to Carphone Warehouse on Monday to go and get a new one.
    During the time I was there, I had given my card over for an “internal check” on my identity. This happened four or five times. I was told that because my old house was a flat, the internal system did not recognise it, hence the ridiculous number of times they tried to put it through. I was told as I didn’t have any other ID with me, I couldn’t have the phone as I didn’t have any other cards to check against.
    The next day, armed with more ID than you can shake a stick at, I tried to go directly to T Mobile instead (who I’d been planning to sign up with anyway). They were really helpful, but when they tried to check me (just the once), it got declined. The guys told me what must have happened, T mobile’s system had seen how many checks were on me and that’s what had mucked it up.
    I was so annoyed, I could hardly speak. I went back into Carphone Warehouse, where I was kept waiting for 15 minutes. After trying to tell them what had happened the previous day (I got the distinct impression they didn’t even believe me), they finally told me there was nothing they could do, and put me onto Experian to do a credit check.
    I did a credit check (because maybe there was something on there that i was not aware of), but sure enough, once I’d laid out the £12 it became obvious that my credit was indeed great, and it was the searches that had caused the whole issue.
    Then I called the Carphone Warehouse Head Office, and ended up talking to three people, none of whom knew how to address my issues. I did manage to get an email sent out to the area manager, as it’s CPW who will have to remove this record for me (or so I have been told).
    To date, still no contact – and I am losing my mind with not being able to get a new phone – as well as being overly irritated that someone has mucked up my credit rating through no fault of my own, when I’ve spent a really long time trying to get it to be so good in the first place.
    T mobile have said that it’ll be three months before I can try again, unless I get the stuff removed from my credit records, but why should I suffer (not to mention having to pay my current, higher phone charges) in that time?
    All that – and I haven’t even got a phone yet.
    Feel slightly better about the fact it’s not just me – but on the other hand, am so annoyed that this company have managed to make so many mistakes repetitively!
    Any advice very gratefully received.

  8. “For those who aren’t familiar with the system, each credit check undertaken actually reduces your credit rating, particularly if you happen to get declined.”
    That isn’t true at all I’m afraid. Firstly, a “credit rating” is entirely dependant on who you are applying for credit from, they all use your credit file as a baseline and apply their own criteria to it. Some lenders don’t care about previous searches.
    Secondly, the fact that a “credit check” was done on your file IS recorded. The result of this (whether you were accepted or declined) is NOT recorded.

  9. When I finally succumbed to the Apple marketing machine and decided to order an iPhone, there’s no way I could have foreseen the 11 day battle against Carphone Warehouse’s corporate ineptitude that was to come…
    I ordered the iPhone (16Gb in white) through the Carphone Warehouse website on Thursday lunchtime on the 27th November. I decided to request delivery to my local store (Eden Centre in High Wycombe) as I wasn’t sure if anyone would be a home when it arrived. I paid the extra £58 for the 16Gb version on my American Express card, the transaction went through and I received a confirmation via email.
    So far so good.
    4 days later (Monday) I received an email, telling me that the phone would be available for collection from my local store on Tuesday 2nd December. On Tuesday lunchtime I headed off to the store (with my Amex card as per the instructions in the confirmation email) and told the sales guy that I was there to collect an iPhone I ordered online. He took my name, disappeared into the back of the store for a few seconds and when he reappeared, handed me a sealed black plastic bag, branded with the Apple logo. I asked if he needed any ID and he said ‘No, just take it away and have fun!’
    I got home, unwrapped the phone, popped in the SIM that was in the bag and turned on the phone. It asked me to connect to iTunes and activate the phone. I did that and the phone came up with the message ‘Awaiting Activation’.
    After a couple of hours I thought I’d call O2 to make sure that I wasn’t waiting for something that was never going to happen. They refused to speak to me about any account information because they had no record of my existence. The nice lady did tell me that I shouldn’t have been given the phone without going through an identity check and signing an O2 contract.
    I headed back into town and into the Carphone Warehouse store. I dealt with another sales guy ‘Matt’ this time who told me that I needed to complete some ‘proofs’ on their system to confirm that I was who I claimed to be. The first ‘proof’ demanded by the system was a £1.00 transaction on the card I used for the original order.
    One small problem. I only ever use my Amex card for online transaction and therefore, don’t have a PIN for it. We tried a number of different cards but the system demands that the customer uses the card they ordered with. I’m annoyed that the confirmation email only told me to take the card with me to the store and didn’t mention that it would be used for a chip & PIN transaction – after all, I’ve already paid. I head home with an unusable iPhone to order a PIN from Amex.
    On Friday lunchtime, I find a voicemail on my home phone from the ‘Matt’ at the Carphone Warehouse store, telling me that his manager has figured out a way to bypass the system so that I can use a different card and associated PIN. Once again, I drive into town and go back to the store. Same process as before but this time a few more keypresses on the computer and the manager ‘Rob’ has to enter an authorisation code into the system. Still no good. It’s still demanding that I use my Amex card and PIN. The store manager calls his store support line and then speaks to IT for half an hour. Apparently, there’s nothing anyone can do if I don’t have the PIN. I head home again.
    A nice surprise in the post from Amex on Saturday morning – a new PIN! Into town yet again and this time, I’m feeling more optimistic. We go through the ‘proofs’ process again and this time, when it asks for my card & PIN, I’m ready. Amex card in the slot and a message appears on the display ‘please use mag strip reader’. A brief conversation among the store staff and someone remarks that ‘Carphone Warehouse stores can’t do chip & PIN on American Express’. Great. A phonecall to store support confirms this fact – Carphone Warehouse can’t do chip and PIN transaction for American Express cards or cards issued by Nationwide Building Society.
    This time, the guys in the store seem to have realised that they could be in serious trouble for giving me the phone without completing the ID checks and getting me to sign a contract so, the sales guys tells me that they’ll be keeping the phone. Very politely I inform him that he is sadly mistaken and there’s no way they’re keeping the phone. Throughout this process the store staff have been telling me that part of the problem is that the phone isn’t part of their store stock and I’m not about to give them a phone that they have no record of but for which I’m financially responsible. After a very pointed conversation with ‘Rob’ the store manager, I go home with the phone.
    So, to recap: Carphone Warehouse allowed me to pay for an iPhone on their website, using an American Express card that I would need to use to confirm my identity at the sore using chip & PIN, despite the fact that Carphone Warehouse stores can’t process chip & PIN transaction on American Express Cards, thereby making it physically impossible for me to complete the process.
    To add insult to injury, they started sending me reminder emails, threatening to cancel the order if I didn’t collect the phone within 7 days.
    A phonecall to ‘Harry’ in the ‘Tracking Team’ at Carphone Warehouse didn’t help a great deal – their suggestion was to cancel the transaction and ‘do a new order in store’. I would have been more comfortable with that idea if the next phrase I heard wasn’t ‘But that might trigger a new credit check at O2 and they could well fail you for cancelling the original order’. Great.
    I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to get an iPhone (or one that was connected to a mobile network at least) so I decided to take a chance and cancel the order. Off to the store again.
    This time things go better. The order is cancelled and ‘Rob’ the store Manager manages to have the phone transferred to store stock and generates a new order. The original credit check still comes up as valid and the order is accepted. Hooray! I complete the ‘proofs’ with my Maestro card and sign the O2 contract. ‘Rob’ tells me that he’s ‘picked out a nice number for me’ and he’s right – it’s a memorable number printed right there on the contract. I go home with the iPhone and my copy of the contract. Things are looking better.
    2 days and 2 phone calls later, the iPhone finally pops up a message saying that it has been activated. I call the number of the contract from my home phone to test it out. Straight to voicemail. Strange. I call my home number from the iPhone and the incoming number is definitely not the one printed on my contract. Another call to O2 and I’m told that the ‘nice number’ that ‘Rob’ picked out for me actually belongs to someone else and I’ve been issued with a different number.
    I don’t have the strength to argue.
    Overall, my iPhone purchase with Carphone Warehouse has been the single most frustrating and disappointing customer experience of my entire life (and I’ve been with NTL for 7 years!) The whole process was fundamentally flawed from the beginning – it was absolutely impossible for me to successfully complete the original online order due to the complete disconnect between the capabilities of their web ordering system, the processes of their contract system and the deficiencies of their in-store card processing technology. That, along with the many human failures along that way, gives me much cause for concern now that I’m a Carphone Warehouse customer.
    I fear the future.

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