James Walker: Watch out for loopholes in mobile phone cover

The mini-heatwave many of us experienced recently left my social media pages filled with pictures of friends and family making the most of the weather. Barbecues, parties and lazy days in the park or garden abounded.

Check the excess on the insurance policy before claiming for repairs

Of course, there was a fair bit of carnage too. Many of the mishaps were mobile related as people sat on their phones, dropped them, soaked them or left them somewhere. But what happens when you try to claim on your insurance policy?

Mobile phone insurance is often an impulse purchase, bought at the point of sale. These policies are rarely value for money. For example, you might pay £12-15 a month for a policy bought this way, versus a couple of quid on the internet for a similar or even better policy bought online.

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Most mobile phone contracts have some terms that are restrictive or might not be fair. So if your claim is turned down, don’t give up. Here’s how to fight back.

Reporting within 24 hours

If your phone is lost or stolen there’s usually a time limit for reporting this to the insurer (and the police). In the bad old days this could be as short as within 12 hours, with 24 being the norm. Thankfully, there aren’t that many 12-hour policies out there anymore, but I believe that a day – or even two days – to report the matter to the insurer is unfair. Contact the firm and give them reasons for the delay in reporting. The financial ombudsman can look at your complaint for free if they say no.

Mobile phone taken by threat or force

I’ve seen a number of cases where insurers have turned down claims because no physical force was used against the victim when the phone was stolen. In one case a young woman was surrounded by three big men at a cash point who intimidated her into handing over her cash and phone. Because they hadn’t forced her physically, her claim was rejected. Now that’s all kinds of wrong and again – but this is still a clause in contracts. If your phone has been nicked, no matter what the reason, you have the right to make a claim, so don’t be put off.

Arm’s reach / in sight

The “arm’s reach” rule is a common inclusion in insurance policies that cover mobiles and valuables. This states that you can have valuables secured in a bag or coat but it must be within arm’s reach of you – and in sight. I’ve seen loads of claims rejected after honest customers specified that the item was close but not directly within arm’s reach. This includes phones nicked from a locked bag by your feet in a bar or restaurant. Again, it’s all relative. If you could reasonably argue the phone was with you, then you should appeal.

Accidental damage

You can cover your mobile under your home insurance for many things, so mobile phone insurance only really comes into its own for accidental damage. But read the policy carefully. Some still don’t cover water damage – and the insurer’s repair team will check this. If you’re prone to dropping your phone, it can be expensive to repair, so check out what your excess fee will be.

The good news is mobile phone insurance is a regulated financial product, so you can go to the financial ombudsman if you’re unhappy – and they can help you sort it out for free.