Phones4U were a British mobile phone reseller. At one time, they sold handsets and contracts for most of the UK networks, these being O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone (whereas Three didn't allow resellers). And thanks to the nature of Phones4U, they were able to offer a different portfolio of devices compared with going direct to the carrier, plus different tariffs. Indeed, Phones4U could and would source their handsets differently to the UK carriers and sometimes an update for a given device on a given network would be earlier or later if the device was originally bought from Phones4U (in a former role, I remember patiently trying to explain this to a customer as to why their Samsung Galaxy S was stuck on Android 2.2 FroYo because it was a Phones4U model and they hadn't approved the upgrade to Gingerbread yet).
Unfortunately, the UK carriers essentially stopped Phones4U from trading. O2 changed their core consumer tariffs to O2 Refresh in 2013 and under UK legislation, had to ensure that resellers followed the same code of conduct. This was too difficult a hurdle and so O2 direct sold the Refresh tariff and resellers sold traditional contracts. The business relationship ended in the summer of 2013. Roll forward to late summer 2014 and Vodafone announced that they too, were stopping their business relationship with Phones4U. EE (formed from the merger of Orange and T-Mobile) presumably were not comfortable with Phones4U only being able to sell their tariffs so they stopped this business relationship too… in essence, the UK carriers made it impossible for Phones4U to continue trading.
At the time, some customers lost money through the Phones4U closure because they had pre-ordered the iPhone. And of course, Phones4U had a large amount of stock taking up space. That stock is now being liquidated under instruction from the liquidators and is being auctioned off at John Pye Auctions (hit up the link at the source). On the face of it, you can pick up some real bargains but there are a couple of points to remember. The first is that all purchases are subject to a 40% surcharge. 20% of this is VAT and a further 20% is the buyers' fee. None of these items have a warranty with either the auctioneer or the manufacturer and are sold as seen, but there are over 2,000 items including handsets, tablets, Beats headphones, consoles (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii-U) plus other accessories. Looking through the listings, there are some bargains to be had. You'll have to go to the auction house to collect your item(s) or they'll be packing things up to be collected by your designated courier if you so decide.
Ultimately, I had a good working relationship with my two local Phones4U and I was sorry to see them go. That's because they kept the carriers keener with their prices. Less competition on the highstreet isn't a good thing when it comes to our mobile carriers! Are you looking for a new smartphone or tablet and you're in the UK? If so, are you tempted by this auction? If you are, let us know in the comments below.