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Mobile News ‘Circular Summit’ is catalyst for new industry committee to establish grading standards of used devices

Staff Reporter
February 6, 2024

Mobile News’ Circular Summit conference held last November has facilitated the establishment of a UK Circular Standards Committee to oversee agreed standards of quality for the sale of used devices.

Leading figures from VMO2, GiffGaff, EE, Vodafone, Three, PhoneCheck, eBay, BackMarket, CCS Insights, Currys, and Music Magpie have already joined the committee,following a presentation at Circular Summit by  Paul Schofield, founder of independent quality grading company BlankIT.

In his presentation Schofield urged the secondary market to agree on common standards of device quality to overcome buyer uncertainty. 

After his talk he was approached by important industry figures in the audience saying they would be interested in establishing a new UK standard for the condition of graded used devices. An inaugural meeting  took place this week.

“” Mobile News’ Circular Summit has really created ‘a thing”.

“Word is getting around. The distributors are starting to email me. Mobile News’ Circular Summit has really created ‘a thing.’ The overwhelming interest in fixing this issue became apparent when everyone invited agreed to be part of the committee” he said. 

“The general consensusof the committee is that we’ll be tackling one issue at a time. Our primary focus will be to simplify the consumer purchasing journey. Everyone recognises that each seller is using different terminology, which is causing confusion and distrust. We are going to fix this.

Paul Schofield’s presentation at Circular Summit in which he called for standardised grading of used devices

“We’re refurbishing needlessly”

“The industry is consuming too much time and effort creating the highest standard of devices. We’re refurbishing needlessly when we could instead spend our efforts on a more sustainable approach and listen to what the consumer actually wants. The consumer would be more than happy to purchase a ‘B or C Grade’ device if they understood and trusted what they were paying for.

“We will be engaging with the (American wireless industry advocacy group) CTIA.  They have already been on this journey in respect of a US B2B standard. We will also be reaching out to the ASA and ISO to advise us.

“More companies are expressing an interest in what we are doing. I’ll be reaching out to UK distributors to progress the B2B standard on he condition of used devices. The committee has first nagreed to set the B2C standard before we tackle the B2B issues.”

Three UK trade-in manager James Bowmer, who participated in Circular Summit, said:

James Bowmer: “Benchmarking of refurbished devices is a grey area that negatively impacts the industry”

“Benchmarking of refurbished devices is a grey area that negatively impacts the industry. It can allow for substandard products to be sold at a premium. Having a benchmarked grading process would be a signiicant change that would support both businesses and consumers in receiving and offering a greater level of service and product quality.” 

Circular industry analyst  Simon Bryant of CCS Insight said:

“Standardised product grading is essential regarding how companies trade based on a used product’s physical characteristics. The committee’s formation is a critical step toward standardizing grades for used devices in the UK. 

“Risks associated with buying used devices have been a barrier for consumers and businesses and a deterrent for any company considering handling stock. Approaches to grading differ significantly between countries, companies, and buyers and sellers within the supply chain. 

“When you couple this with the significant cost of buying a used iPhone online, consumers are taking a leap of faith in the seller, which many will not be prepared to do.”

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