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29 January 2015

Refund for $13,000 massage chair

High price for door-to-door sale.

An elderly woman sold a $13,000 Niagara Therapy massage chair has been refunded after her bank stepped in to help her cancel the sale.

Bronwyn Groot, security and fraud co-ordinator at BNZ, said staff intervened when they became aware the woman didn’t want the product and would have difficulty paying for it.

Niagara massage products are sold door-to-door. Sales agents work on commission and can reportedly earn more than $150,000 a year. We’ve previously criticised the tactics used by Niagara salespeople and the high prices charged.

The company that markets the products, Niagara Healthcare, says the devices may increase joint mobility and circulation, and reduce swelling and musculoskeletal pain. It’s previously claimed the products are “medically proven” and address “a plethora of health issues”. But it dropped these claims from its website after a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority in 2013.

We’re concerned consumers who have bought these products haven’t been given accurate information about their legal rights to cancel a sale. Since June, door-to-door sales have been regulated by the Fair Trading Act. However, the sales agreement used by Niagara Healthcare still refers to the Door to Door Sales Act 1967, which provided weaker consumer protection and has been repealed.

Niagara Healthcare director, Sean Crealey, said it was aware of changes to the Act and was amending its sales agreement to comply with the law. He said the company had a "strict policy of resolution with any unhappy client”. When asked to cancel the sales agreement for the $13,000 massage chair, it "immediately began the process of cancelling the order".

Retailers who fail to comply with door-to-door sales rules in the Fair Trading Act can be fined up to $30,000 by the courts. The Commerce Commission also has the power to issue a $1000 infringement notice to a retailer who fails to provide customers with a written agreement summarising their cancellation rights.

We’ll be making a complaint to the commission about Niagara Healthcare’s agreement.

Your rights

If you agree to buy a product from a door-to-door trader, you have five working days to cancel after you receive a copy of the sales agreement. The seller can’t enforce the agreement unless it’s in writing and informs you of your cancellation rights. You can cancel for any reason. The seller must refund any money you’ve paid.

Contact us for a free “Do Not Knock” sticker if you don’t want door-to-door sellers to call. We’re distributing the stickers as part of our campaign to fight back against dodgy door-to-door dealers. The stickers can be put on your letterbox, front door or anywhere prominent to warn door-to-door traders not to knock.

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