Ann McLachlan and her faulty hearing aid.
The $5300 hearing aids that broke down.
Just over two years after Ann McLachlan bought her $5300 hearing aids, they became faulty. Ann took them back to Hearing Advantage in Fendalton, Christchurch, where she’d bought them. The company said the aids were no longer covered by the manufacturer’s warranty – which only lasts two years – and estimated it would cost around $100 to repair them.
But when the hearing aids returned from repair, the bill was $368. Ann was staggered costly repairs were needed so soon out of the warranty period. She pointed out that the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) requires goods to have a reasonable life. But staff said the repair costs were her responsibility. Ann paid up. She has mild to moderate hearing loss and the hearing aids are vital for her job – she works in a call centre.
Ann got in touch with us to find out what her rights were. Our consumer adviser Maggie Edwards’ view was that Ann was right to raise the CGA as an issue. “The CGA says when you buy goods for personal or domestic use they must be of reasonable quality, fit for purpose and have a reasonable lifespan. Generally, it’s the retailer’s responsibility to ensure that any minor defects are fixed during that lifespan,” Maggie says. UK consumer magazine Which? estimates the reasonable lifespan of a hearing aid to be five years.
So Ann wrote to Hearing Advantage, asking it to honour its obligations under the Act. Managing director Lloyd Mander agreed hearing aids should last five years but said “routine repairs” may be required during that time. Mr Mander said the manufacturer, Unitron, believed the most likely cause of the problem with Ann’s aids was moisture damage from “humidity around the ear”.
After discussions with Unitron, Hearing Advantage agreed to refund Ann $268 of the $368 she’d paid. It acknowledged the “significant (though unintentional) error” made by staff in estimating the cost of repairs. The company also sent Ann a drying kit to store her hearing aids and two packets of batteries.
After we contacted the company, it refunded the remaining $100 as a gesture of good faith “not due to any obligation under the CGA”. It told us some hearing aids would require repair within their lifespan and it was generally accepted within the industry that it was the customer’s responsibility to pay for repairs out of warranty. The company said its policy was “no different from every other clinic”.
Based on legal advice, and industry practice, the company said that due to the nature of hearing aids the CGA would not apply out of warranty. We take a different view.
More from consumer.org.nz
- Consumer Guarantees Act - our guide to your rights
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