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4 September 2013

Carpet claims mislead

Carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst is going back to court over warranty claims made by rival Cavalier Bremworth.

Carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst is going back to court over warranty claims made by rival Cavalier Bremworth.

Warranty claims made by Cavalier Bremworth for a new carpet range are heading to the Court of Appeal. Competitor Godfrey Hirst is taking the case back to court because it believes a High Court judgment it obtained against Cavalier Bremworth didn't go far enough.

In July, a High Court judge found Cavalier Bremworth had breached the Fair Trading Act by making misleading claims about warranties for a new carpet range. The court action was taken by Godfrey Hirst following the launch of Cavalier's "Habitat Collection", a range of synthetic carpets supplied by Australian firm Invista.

In his decision, Justice Murray Gilbert found Cavalier Bremworth breached the Act by claiming the carpet warranties covered fading caused by cleaning and crushing from heavy foot traffic. The judge also found the company misleadingly implied it was providing the warranties when they were in fact provided by Invista.

Cavalier Bremworth corrected the statements on its website and in a letter to carpet retailers after it was issued with proceedings. But it hadn't changed stickers on the back of carpet samples that claimed the warranty covered fading caused by cleaning. Justice Gilbert issued a permanent injunction restraining Cavalier Bremworth from making this statement.

The judge declined to uphold other parts of Godfrey Hirst's claim and the company is appealing. General manager Tania Pauling said the carpet industry needed guidance on what the company believed were increasingly confusing and misleading warranties being promoted in the market.

Among the matters to be considered at appeal is Godfrey Hirst's claim that Cavalier made misleading representations about the carpet's "lifetime stain and soil resistance" and "25 year fade resistance" warranties. In evidence to the High Court, Godfrey Hirst argued Cavalier Bremworth's promotion of the warranties would mislead consumers into believing they provided substantial value and applied in full for the stated time. In fact, the "lifetime" warranties for stain and soil resistance begin to diminish after 15 years, and the 25-year warranty for fade resistance after seven years.

However, Justice Gilbert considered prospective purchasers and carpet retailers would have "looked beyond" the words used to describe the warranties and "would understand that they would need to review the warranties booklet to determine the extent of the cover provided".

From the complaints we receive, we believe consumers are often unaware of the numerous exclusions that can be contained in warranty fine print. The Invista warranty lists 51 specific exclusions from its "lifetime" stain cover. We've recently reported on cases where retailers have failed to inform consumers of warranty limitations. In one case, the customer didn't get a copy of the warranty brochure until after the carpet was installed.

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