A third-party seller on the Carrefour Marketplace online platform has been suspended and the buyer of an Apple iPhone was refunded after the Dh5,000 device turned out to have been reported as stolen in the UK.
Andy Gibbins, a British consultant who has lived in Dubai for 12 years, received the iPhone 13 Pro Max as a Christmas present from his wife.
The phone worked perfectly well in the UAE, but as he touched down in Newcastle for a business trip this week and tried to connect with a local network he was met with deafening silence.
After attempts to reset the device, a trip to an Apple store and then EE, a UK mobile phone service provider, it was revealed the phone had been reported stolen and blacklisted.
“It was brand new and still in the box, so you would assume everything would be ok,” said Mr Gibbins, whose wife Shara purchased the phone via the UAE Carrefour Marketplace on November 26.
“After I landed in the UK, I turned the phone on but couldn’t get a network.
“I couldn’t do too much in the airport but, when I got to my destination, I played around with the settings but still nothing."
He visited a local phone shop the next day but was told to take it to an Apple Store.
They ran a diagnostic check and found it had been blocked.
“They checked it on multiple websites and found an anomaly as it was not originally registered by Carrefour or their third-party vendor, but in Milton Keynes to the phone provider EE," Mr Gibbins said.
“EE told me it had been blocked since September 2022, as it was thought to be a stolen unit — which they later confirmed by email.
“The phone would probably have worked anywhere else in the world, other than where it was stolen from — which was the UK.
“It has taken a long time to unearth the whole story.”
As soon as the complaint was reported, the Carrefour Marketplace said, a full investigation was launched to understand the issue.
"We have issued a full product refund to the customer in question, and the seller has been suspended until the investigation concludes. We apologise to the customer for this experience," a representative said.
Mr Gibbins, who lives in Jumeirah Village Circle, was told he would have to return the device to Carrefour in the UAE for them to investigate the matter further.
They have since refunded his wife the full amount paid for the device and suspended the third-party seller from the Carrefour Marketplace.
Meanwhile, Mr Gibbins has plugged in his old mobile to stay connected while he is away.
“I have a UK sim card that allows me to use messenger services, but as everything is connected to my UAE number, I can’t use my UAE credit cards without a one-time password or access any government services.
“I’m stuck until I get back and get a new SIM card.”
Records show the phone was sold by a specialist mobile phone trader in Deira in Dubai.
According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the most recent data for the year ending March 2020 showed 325,000 people had mobile phones stolen in England and Wales.
Blacklisted phones blocked
Operators can block the use of a stolen mobile phone in the country where it was registered by using its International Mobile Equipment Identity number, or IMEI.
While that prevents it from being used in the country where it was registered, it does not usually block a blacklisted device from being used elsewhere.
The UAE’s Carrefour Marketplace is an online platform that allows businesses and third-party vendors to sell products via the Carrefour mobile app and website.
The company is operated in the region by Majid Al Futtaim.
“Each of our sellers is heavily vetted, and is subject to our 'Know Your Client' process by which we validate their documentation and right to do business in line with UAE laws,” the representative said.
“Those who are selling branded products receive a visit from our inspection team to validate authenticity.
“Once verified, Carrefour also performs random testing and visits to ensure full adherence to our quality standards.
"Meanwhile, we have issued a full product refund to the customer in question, and the seller has been suspended until the investigation concludes. We apologise to the customer for this experience.
“Carrefour remains committed to providing the highest quality products at the best possible value.
“We encourage our customers to always provide their feedback about our services and products so we can serve them better and care for the matters that they care about.”