EE turns its back on Carphone Warehouse: what to do if you’re a customer ready to upgrade

EE has confirmed plans to cut ties with high street retailer Carphone Warehouse. That means EE SIM cards and smartphones running on the hugely-popular mobile network will no longer be available in the shop. Carphone Warehouse, which is officially known as Dixons Carphone following the merger with Dixons back in 2014, has hosted EE contracts and SIM cards in its stores for almost two decades.

In a statement, EE said it had not been an easy decision but it was one that had to be made after “many months of challenging discussions and negotiation”. A spokesperson for BT, which owns and operates EE, added: “After more than 20 years of close partnership, we have taken the hard decision to not renew our EE Mobile contract with Dixons Carphone, and shift our focus and investment to growth in our own stores and online channels. However, as our strategy moves toward convergence and our focus on customer value and retention increases, we will be resetting our distribution strategy to prioritise sales and service in our own channels.

“Dixons Carphone has been a great partner for many years, and we thank the team for all the work they have done with us helping to grow our business, and wish them well as they pursue their own renewed strategy. Customers will not be affected by this change.”

So, what if you’re currently reading this on a smartphone with an EE contract bought from your local branch of Carphone Warehouse?

Fortunately, none of this corporate reshuffling should impact you. Carphone Warehouse is still offering customers the chance to buy contracts on EE until the end of this month and will support anyone on EE until the end of their contract.

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So, if you sign on the dotted line for a new iPhone on a 24-month contract with EE on September 30, Carphone Warehouse will continue to “support and advice” for the next two-years. All existing customers will get the same treatment for the remainder of their phone contract, so there’s no need to panic.

However, if you’re reaching the end of your contract and want to upgrade to a new phone, you’ll need to head to an EE store from October 1, 2020 to stay with the network. Of course, you can shop at Carphone Warehouse again, but your new handset will be running on a rival network, like Virgin Mobile, or Vodafone.

EE isn’t the only mobile network turning its back on Carphone. Three UK parted ways several years ago, while O2 didn’t agree to an extension to its contract with the high street retailer earlier this year. In total, three of the four biggest mobile operators in the UK are no longer stocked on Carphone Warehouse shelves – leaving only Vodafone, Virgin Mobile, Voxi (which is owned and operated by Vodafone) and iD Mobile (which is owned and operated by Carphone Warehouse).

Carphone Warehouse has struggled to adapt to changing consumer behaviour. As smartphones have moved from radical redesigns with never-before-seen new features each year, people have started to hold onto their devices for longer – waiting for a few new models (each with a handful of little tweaks) to launch before opting to upgrade. Longer refresh cycles means contract renewals are fewer and far between – making SIM-only deals and SIM-free smartphones more popular options.

Since these typically have smaller margins, Carphone Warehouse is looking to dramatically rethink its business.

Instead of offering lengthy contracts with a limited number of minutes, texts and mobile data allowance tied to a specific smartphone model, the Acton-based company is hoping to launch a brand-new “mobile proposition” to shake things up. It has also hinted at plans to offer credit services in a bid to revitalise online sales. Unfortunately, the firm hasn’t offered more detail than that at the moment.

However, it’s plans saw Carphone Warehouse shutter all 531 standalone brick-and-mortar shops in the UK before lockdown.

A spokesperson for Dixons Carphone said: “EE and Dixons Carphone have enjoyed a strong working relationship for over two decades. However, after lengthy discussions we have agreed that our contract with EE to sell pre and post-pay will come to an end this month.

“Our financial plans for mobile and our support for customers currently on an EE connection are unaffected by today’s news. We are well underway with our strategy of moving to a new, more flexible and transparent mobile offer that gives better value to our customers, and this offer is set to launch early next year. We will continue to provide our customers with a broad range of connectivity options.”

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