Knowledge Base

How to solve IMEI blacklisting legally

Started by: therecklessengineer
On: 12/11/2015 | 14:07
Replies: 15

by: therecklessengineer
on: 12/11/2015 | 14:07 edited: 12/11/2015 | 14:26

Hello all,


I reckon the post of my saga is going to get buried, so I thought I'd post this up under a new heading so it might help someone else who finds themselves in a similar position. Here's the link to my original thread:


Very short version: If you are the legal owner of a phone, then it is a breach of contract for your operator to block it - regardless of whether or not your IMEI is on a blacklist. I sued giffgaff, won and got paid for a replacement handset, time and expenses.

On combing through the T&Cs for every major operator, there is no provision for blocking by IMEI. There are no statutory requirements either - it is done entirely voluntarily.

What seems to happen quite typically is that people buy a phone 2nd hand, it works for a bit, then winds up on the blacklist and stops working. Assuming that you bought it from the genuine owner then you become the new legal owner. Your network cannot block your handset, even if the previous owner reports it stolen for an insurance payout. That's fraud and is the concern of the insurance company - not the new phone owner.


[edit here to remove point contested further down the thread]

If you buy a stolen phone however, then yes - if it's blacklisted there's nothing you can do about it apart from return it to its rightful owner. The operator blocking the handset should tell you who this is, or at least make provisions for its return.

The full version of my saga:

I was a customer of giffgaff for some years. I bought a phone in March 2014 from a genuine retail seller brand new in box and found it blocked in June 2015 (yes that's 15 months later). I discovered on ringing around that the phone was blocked by O2. They refused to tell me the reason and despite promising many times to unlock it, it remained blocked.

My contract for service was with giffgaff. On combing through the terms and conditions there is nothing there that allows giffgaff to refuse service based on IMEI number. I also went through the T&Cs for all the major operators - there is no provision to block based on IMEI number for any service provider.

I attempted first to contact giffgaff via the website, but I don’t think the agents I corresponded with had a good enough handle on the issue. I sent a snail mail letter to giffgaff HQ asking that either they satisfy me that their refusal of service was within the T&C's or pay for my new phone - some £250 ish. I threatened legal action if I did not receive a reply within 28 days. I eventually found a reply via the website message centre - after the 28 days and the response was not satisfactory, nor even appropriate to someone threatening legal action.

I used the money claim on-line service to start small claims court proceedings for breach of contract.
I asked for the cost of a replacement handset, and recompense for the time I'd spent trying to sort out the issue. Giffgaff did not respond to the court so I won by default. I requested a bailiff to collect the money which was paid in full.

So if you find yourself denied services by IMEI blacklisting despite being the owner of the phone - ask your operator to remove the block, pay for a new phone, or prove to you that the block is genuine. Funny note here - the letter I got from O2 cited "genuine reasons" for the block. This is ludicrous - you cannot accept genuine reasons that are concealed. If they fail to comply - sue them. You don't need a lawyer to do so - follow the above link and the instructions. It's really very easy.

Message 1 of 16
by: exmember-2018-4735772
on: 12/11/2015 | 14:12
very interesting but, did you actually find out why the IMEI was blocked in the first place?
Message 2 of 16
by: bengalknights
on: 12/11/2015 | 14:16
So have you switched networks and attempted to do same with other networks?
Get a free giffgaff Sim
Message 3 of 16
by: therecklessengineer
on: 12/11/2015 | 14:17
Sadly not. It's a little disappointing in that respect. I've still got the device and I'm not really sure what to do with it.
Message 4 of 16
by: therecklessengineer
on: 12/11/2015 | 14:18
I have switched networks, but that's more to do with the overseas charges than anything else. I now have a new handset.

Suing another network over the same issue would be a bit immoral.
Message 5 of 16
by: i_am_sy
on: 12/11/2015 | 14:19
OK so "I also found that a phone that is supplied as part of a contract deal is the property of the person who takes out the contract from the moment it is delivered to them. This means that they can sell it to you perfectly legally"

That's not true. Most UK networks own the device for the first 6 months of the contract, after which it is your own, providing you have paid all bills upto that point. And if you stop paying after that point then its a case of bailiffs however the device is yours.

In the case of people buying second hand phones, then it all depends on the person resposable to pay the original contract, if they take it out, and then sell on the device within the 6 months and stop paying then the network will both block the device and chase the contract holder for payment. Therefor the person who brought the device secondhand isn't the true owner, the network is. And can do nothing about it being blocked. Just like if you brought a second hand car that is still on finance, since the person you brought it off doesn't own it they have no right to sell it, and any agreement you had between them is null and void (even if you paid large amounts of money)

A lot of people do this with contracts, I would advise never buying a sencond hand phone that hasn't been out for 6 months, unless you know the owner very well. As in all likelihood its on a contract and therefor not yours no matter how much you pay.

As with your case with giffgaff I have no idea what that's about or how it would have happened I'm afraid.
Message 6 of 16
by: therecklessengineer
on: 12/11/2015 | 14:25 edited: 12/11/2015 | 14:26

Interesting - just looked that up again and it would appear you are correct. If I can edit my original post I will.


edit: Done.

Message 7 of 16
by: navvy
on: 12/11/2015 | 14:34 edited: 12/11/2015 | 14:39

From giffgaff's T&C:


2.1 We will provide the Service to you, and you will be entitled to the quality of Service generally provided by a competent mobile telecommunications service provider exercising reasonable skill and care...


I would say that any competent mobile telecommunications service provider should respect the industry-wide IMEI blacklist.  If they don't, it makes a mockery of this method of limiting phone theft.


2.2. We may exercise our discretion, using reasonable skill and care, to refuse to provide any part of the Service to you. This may involve barring certain numbers from the Service on a temporary or permanent basis, in circumstances where it is necessary for us to do so.


This doesn't specifically mention IMEI, but it seems to allow them to bar you.


Sounds to me as though you probably got away with it due to giffgaff's legal department not doing anything.


To edit your post, you need to use the full website (not the mobile version) and at the top right of the message click Options.


Edited to add:


You can get a report on the IMEI to find out which network blocked it.  There are many free services, but the official one costs £1.99 and is maintained directly from information from all the networks.


Message 8 of 16
by: therecklessengineer
on: 12/11/2015 | 14:47

I agree - but what about a phone that's on the blacklist that hasn't (as far as I have been able to check) been stolen?


The first thing I did was a checkmend check. It reported as blocked, but not stolen. I also checked with police databases and the retailer who sold me the phone. I have no reason to believe that the phone was reported stolen.

Message 9 of 16
by: cass905
on: 12/11/2015 | 16:54
very interesting thank you for the share
Message 10 of 16