UK phone retailer Phones 4U has gone into administration, leaving 550 stores to close and many iPhone 6 preorder customers wondering whether their new iOS 8 smartphones will actually be delivered. The retailer had already received one unexpected blow after Vodafone opted not to renew its contract, and a similar decision by EE to also pull out of Phones 4U has seemingly signed the chain’s death warrant.
“The unexpected decisions by both Vodafone and EE have come as a complete shock to the business,” Phones 4U said in a statement. “The company is in a health state and both EE and Vodafone had, until very recently, consistently indicated that they saw Phones 4U as a long-term strategic partner.”
Rather than push on, Phones 4U has taken the decision to shut it stores immediately. Staff – of which there are 5,596 – will be brought in as normal on Monday morning, but the stores themselves will be kept closed.
“It is intended that employees will continue to be paid until further notice,” the company said.
As for those who bought their current contract through Phones 4U, those agreements will continue to be in force, and serviced by the respective operator.
Of course, Phones 4U had – like many other retailers – begun accepting iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus pre-orders from UK customers on Friday last week (and is, in fact, apparently still accepting such orders online). In a statement to Geekanoids, it seems such customers will get their money back but are unlikely to see the phone they wanted.
“Any orders that have not already been dispatched will be cancelled and any payments refunded to customers,” spokesperson Robert White confirmed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a little bitterness at Phones 4U over how the carriers have acted. EE’s decision is described as “surprising,” but it’s Vodafone that gets the brunt of the criticism
“Vodafone has acted in exactly the opposite way to what they had consistently indicated to the management of Phones 4u over more than six months,” the company complained. “Their behavior appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum damage to their partner of 15 years, giving Phones 4U no time to develop commercial alternatives.”