CONSUMERS have been warned that mobile phone insurance is generally a "waste of money".
People have been rushing to take out insurance on their mobiles after a spate of thefts of smartphones.
But an investigation by the Irish Independent has revealed that the insurance premiums cost up to €165 a year, while insurance contracts are laden with exceptions, excesses, limitations and strict terms.
Chief executive of the Consumers' Association Dermott Jewell said that in most cases the insurance offered poor value for money.
"The number of exclusions, matched with the excess charges, make this a complete waste of money for many," he said.
All the main mobile phone operators offer insurance, with premiums being added to monthly bills. Other providers include phone seller Carphone Warehouse and Blue Insurance.
Carphone Warehouse said it was processing 380 claims a week.
The snatching of smartphones by thieves on push bikes has become the fastest-growing crime in the State, with a spate of thefts in Dublin city in particular recently.
Extra gardai have been deployed to thwart the thieves, who are zeroing in on iPhones. The iPhone 4 retails for €599.
A probe of mobile phone insurance policies found annual premiums of between €84 and €165 a year. The investigation also found:
•In many cases you cannot claim for the first €75 of your loss.
•Most insurers stop you making a claim for 60 days after taking out the insurance.
•Insurers won't pay out if the phone is left unattended.
•And limits are placed on the value of handsets that are covered on policies.
Many insurance providers also have a cap on the number of smartphone replacements they will make in 12 months. O2 and Vodafone allow only two claims a year.
O2 charges €156 a year to cover an iPhone. The first €65 of any claim is not covered.
This means that someone who pays a premium for a year and has to make a claim on an 02 policy for a €500 phone will be out of pocket for half the replacement cost of the handset.
Carphone Warehouse, which has some of the highest premiums on the market with some as high as €165 a year, insisted it had the most comprehensive offering on the market. Its policy covers the cost of calls made on the phone if it is stolen.
Irish firm Blue Insurance has launched GadgetInsurance.ie, which sells cover for smartphones and electronic devices such as satnavs, media players, laptops and digital cameras.
For an annual price of €139 (just under €11.60 a month) GadgetInsurance.ie offers cover of €1,000 for up to five selected gadgets.
There is a €79 a year offering that provides protection up to €500.
Telecoms consultant Damien Mulley said mobile phone insurance was expensive but huge numbers of people were left with smashed screens on their smartphones after accidents.
He suggested as an alternative that people register with YouGetItBack.com, which offers a service that locks a phone if it is lost or stolen and helps locate it for fees from €1.99 a month.
A recent survey by the National Consumer Agency found that five of the nine home insurance companies in the market refused to provide cover for the loss of laptops and smart phones.