Eddie Mujica bought insurance on his phone to provide peace of mind, but the Los Feliz man received back-to-back surprises after the phone stopped charging in December.
Mujica said the replacement phone – a refurbished iPhone sent by T-Mobile – was defective upon arrival. After he told the company about the problem and shipped that phone back for a third phone, Mujica received a letter, saying he would have to pay for the damage he said was already there when it arrived, he said.
The struggling actor uses his iPhone to manage his schedule and keep in touch with friends and family. The $8 per month he paid for insurance seemed like a good idea, until the replacement phone arrived.
"The screen was sort of green, the battery was dying, quickly," said Mujica. "It was actually worse than my original phone."
When he sent the refurbished phone back, he received a letter from T-Mobile that said the phone "triggered liquid damage indicators," suggesting the phone was exposed to liquid. The letter also said he would have to pay $229 for the phone.
Los Angeles County consumer affairs investigator Rigoberto Reyes told the NBC4 I-Team that it is the company that would need to provide proof that the customer broke the phone.
"The consumer got a refurbished phone that was not working to the standards he expected," Reyes said. "The company can't simply say, 'You broke it,' and not have any proof, if in fact that's what happened."
T-Mobile told the I-Team that a water damage sticker was missing from Mujica's phone.
"Because this was removed, we were unable to tell if the phone had water damage or not," the company said in a written response. "That resulted in the customer being charged."
T-Mobile said it conducted a thorough inspection of Mujica's phone and advised him about the fee in advance.
The company removed the charge from Mujica's account after being contacted by the I-Team.