Toronto·CBC Investigates

Freedom Mobile sorry for selling an iPhone made with knock-off parts

Freedom Mobile is apologizing after it sold an iPhone that had been refurbished with counterfeit parts. The company is not an official Apple retailer.

Company says its retailers are not authorized to sell iPhones, dealer 'made a mistake'

An independent technician inspected the iPhone sold to Benjamin Thomas and said components of the hardware had been replaced with aftermarket, non-Apple parts. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

Freedom Mobile is apologizing after a CBC Toronto investigation revealed the company sold an iPhone that had been refurbished with counterfeit and aftermarket parts.

Benjamin Thomas purchased what he thought was a new, unlocked iPhone 5S for $300 at Freedom Mobile near Queen Street East and Sherbourne Street in March. He noticed a variety of problems shortly after taking it out of the box.

Thomas says the phone was dying with the battery at 20 per cent and that the casing didn't sit flush across the device. Later, a friend noticed that photos taken on the camera didn't seem to match the quality of those taken on his old iPhone 5S.

'An iPhone, but not an iPhone'

CBC Toronto had the phone examined at independent wireless repair shop Fixt, which revealed that significant portions of the hardware had been replaced.

The phone's casing, screen, battery and camera were found to be aftermarket parts — components that are not made by the original equipment manufacturer — some of which had been reprinted with a forged Apple logo.

"It looks original, but it's not supposed to be engraved," said technician Thomas Wolanczyk, who explained that authentic Apple logos are smooth to the touch.

Wolanczyk also found that the phone had suffered water damage and determined that only the motherboard (main circuit board) and fingerprint reader were original.

Thomas said the dealer did not tell him the phone was refurbished. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

"It's an iPhone, but not an iPhone," he said, adding that similar phones are increasingly common, though they're usually found on Kijiji or Craigslist.

Thomas says he had previously been told by a technician at an Apple store that the phone's hardware was not genuine, but he was surprised to learn the full extent of the forgery. "I definitely feel hurt that they ripped me off," he said.

Thomas says the Freedom Mobile salesperson did not indicate that the phone had been refurbished, and his receipt does not indicate the phone's true condition either.

"It's a real company, a company that you think you can trust, selling random crap," added Thomas's friend Samuel Tremblay, who suspected the phone wasn't genuine.

Freedom Mobile not an authorized Apple retailer

Freedom Mobile  — a Shaw Communications company that rebranded from Wind Mobile in November 2016 — does not list any Apple products on its website, and states on an FAQ page that it does "not officially sell iPhone."

But CBC Toronto visited the Freedom Mobile store that Thomas said sold him the iPhone 5S and asked for the product, and a salesperson retrieved two models from the store's back room. One had an aftermarket glass screen protector already attached; the other was in an incorrect box.

In a statement to CBC Toronto, Freedom Mobile's vice-president of sales and distribution, Pat Button, wrote that retailers "are not in any way authorized to sell these devices."

Fixt technician Thomas Wolanczyk said he's seeing more poorly refurbished phones at his store, often from people who bought them off Kijiji or Craigslist. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

"Unfortunately, our dealer at this particular location made a mistake and should not have sold this device to our customer," he said. "We sincerely regret and apologize for the inconvenience caused."

Sales representatives at that location now say they are no longer selling iPhones.

To make it up to Thomas, Freedom Mobile exchanged the iPhone 5S for a new iPhone SE, which the company purchased at an Apple store at its retail price of $579.

Have you had a similar experience with a wireless carrier? Get in touch with us at torontotips@cbc.ca. You can also reach Nick Boisvert directly at nicholas.boisvert@cbc.ca.

About the Author

Nick Boisvert

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nick Boisvert is a reporter and one-man band video journalist based in Toronto, covering general news, local politics and social justice. Outside work, Nick enjoys cooking, following the NBA and listing things in threes.