Freedom Furniture fails to deliver
Freedom Furniture customers around the country have been left in limbo after purchasing items that are missing in action.
‘It was hands down the worst retail experience of my life’.
Poor communication and broken promises have resulted in growing frustrations … along with growing wait times for customers. What are your rights if you find yourself in the same boat?
Sophia’s saga – the tale of the missing bedhead
Fed-up mother Leigh contacted us after her daughter Sophia’s recent ordeal.
6 March, Sophia, 25, orders a bedhead from Freedom Furniture’s website. She pays $449 for the bedhead plus $65 for delivery – a total of $514.
It’s estimated to be delivered between 16 and 30 March. The time frame comes and goes, with no sign of the bedhead. There’s no communication from Freedom. She waits.
20 April, Sophia emails Freedom asking for an update on her order. Freedom’s automated email response warns that there is a five-day waiting period for a reply, but that it is “confident” of responding sooner. She hears nothing for 20 days.
9 May, Sophia finally receives a reply. The customer service representative apologises for the delay and inquires as to whether it has been delivered in the interim. It hasn’t.
10 May, Sophia tells them she hasn’t had any communication about her order and inquires about getting a refund.
11 May, Sophia is told that her order is ready after all and will arrive the following week. But once again, there’s no bedhead.
25 May, Sophia again contacts Freedom and requests a refund. Again, her request is ignored.
“I wanted to get a refund at this point as it was getting ridiculous. I was very disappointed in my experience with Freedom,” Sophia said.
Leigh said: “My daughter was promised it would be looked into and each time she had to chase them up. At one point, Freedom also claimed they had our address as Hamilton despite the invoice having our correct postcode for New Plymouth. Felt like any excuse!”
8 June, Sophia receives an email informing her that in order to be assisted with her claim, she needs to supply a series of photos showing what’s wrong with the product – a product she has yet to receive.
She again asks for a refund under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA).
15 June, Sophia receives an email from Freedom informing her that her order is now complete. There’s still no sign of the bedhead she’d paid for.
17 June, again she asks for a refund under the CGA but is ignored.
18 June, Sophia’s dad happens to be in Auckland, so he calls into the Mangere branch to speak to the manager. The manager assures him that Sophia will get her refund.
27 June, Sophia’s dad chases up the manager.
30 June, the refund finally arrives – almost four months after she ordered the bedhead.
“I believe we only got her money back because her father showed up in person and wasn’t going to let it go ... If we had not fought this and kept at them, we would still be getting the runaround,” Leigh said.
Debra’s dead end
Auckland-based customer Debra describes her dealings with Freedom as “hands down the worst retail experience of my life”.
A purchase of outdoor furniture, a sofa and two chairs escalated into loss of income, a steep petrol bill and days wasted.
February, Debra orders her furniture online. She spends more than $2800, as well as a $450 delivery fee.
11 March, she receives a Covid delay notification and is told it will be delivered on 5 April.
Debra lives and works in Auckland but has a house in Ōhope, Bay of Plenty – where the furniture is to be delivered.
5 April, Debra takes the day off work and drives 300km (almost four hours) to Ōhope to receive the furniture. She gets a call saying the furniture won't be delivered because Freedom hasn't received it from its delivery company yet. It will deliver on 12 April.
12 April, Debra heads back to Ōhope for the delivery, but it doesn’t arrive. She tries to get in contact with customer service, finally speaking with someone who tells her it wasn’t going to come that day but would be delivered on 19 April.
19 April, Debra drives back to Ōhope. Again, the furniture doesn’t arrive.
“We are now at 1800km of trips for no furniture being delivered so I am pretty annoyed, as you might imagine.”
She asks customer service for a refund but instead is told the furniture will definitely arrive on 27 April and she will also receive a gift card as an apology.
26 April, “I phone before I start the drive to Ōhope, because I’ve already done around 24 hours of driving, and taken three days off work for nothing, so I want to make sure! I am assured it will arrive on 27 April.”
27 April, the furniture does not arrive. Beyond frustrated, Debra phones customer service again.
“The customer service team members were always really lovely and apologetic. I did not get to speak to any managers. I felt they just threw their teams under the bus. I actually thought they must be going out of business because I couldn’t fathom how they did this and got away with it.”
The staff members assure her it will definitely be there on 4 May.
“I told them, I’m afraid that is not good enough. I won’t be here then. I told them I can’t take more time off work for this so give me a refund.”
By this stage, Debra has asked for a refund multiple times.
Customer service says it’s found a company who will deliver the next day.
28 April, “So, I wait in all day on the 28th because I have been promised it will be delivered again ... but by 3pm still nothing. So, I try customer service with no luck. I leave a voicemail and no call-back. I know the name of the delivery company they are going to use so I figure I will phone them and see if they are on their way.”
She phones the delivery company and is told it was never going to be delivered that day as Freedom has booked the delivery for 30 April, not 28 April as she has been told.
30 April, “So, we are now 2100km of driving, which is about 28 hours in the car and almost a week off work, for a delivery that hasn’t happened. Finally on 30 April it arrives, and I love it, but it was hands down the worst retail experience of my life.”
A few days after her order arrives, she received a call and text from Freedom saying it has her order and wants to deliver it the next day.
“I was like, ‘I have it already, love!’ I had multiple calls afterwards following up on the order, as they thought they still had bits to deliver and throughout the process they couldn’t correctly tell me what was on my order.”
Terrible online feedback
Dig around Freedom’s online presence and the sheer volume of unhappy customers soon surfaces. The majority of comments on Freedom’s Facebook pages are from desperate customers trying to get in contact with anyone who can help them.
One customer, Jason, told us he was frustrated after ordering several items in Freedom’s 2021 Boxing Day sale. His delivery date came and went with no word about where his furniture was.
“I followed up, to be told another two weeks, and again no further contact,” Jason said. “This happened for a while until late April, I followed up again – to be told it had been ready for delivery for a week and they forgot to call. It was just frustrating, the lack of service or contact. It was also very difficult to get through and I could only ever leave a voicemail.”
A letter on Freedom’s website addresses Covid-related delays:
“There are currently a number of factors impacting retail supply chain in New Zealand. Global shipping closures and bottlenecks in manufacturing and shipping hubs ... are unfortunately all causing ongoing delays in the processing delivery of customer orders. These issues are industry wide and are affecting most retailers.”
Reasonable delay is understandable. What’s not understandable, however, is why delivery updates are not being communicated to customers who have already paid for goods.
The same letter goes on to address existing customers:
“Impacted customers will be contacted via email and notified of any changes to their order time frame as this information becomes available.”
That's not what we've heard from consumers.
“Covid should not be an excuse for poor form!” Leigh said.
After multiple attempts at contact, Freedom finally responded to us – blaming the shipping disruptions and manufacturing bottlenecks, with the addition of: “These are extraordinary times and Freedom apologises for any inconvenience delivery delays may be causing. Our teams continue to work with customers that are facing delays to find suitable solutions, including the right to cancel and receive a refund.”
What are your rights if this happens to you?
Under the CGA, if you order products and the retailer is arranging delivery – either itself or through a delivery company – it must ensure the products arrive on time.
If the goods don’t arrive on time, contact the retailer to find out what’s happening. If the retailer doesn’t fix the problem, you can claim compensation for any losses you incur as a result of the delay.
If you’ve paid by debit card or credit card, you might be able to request a chargeback from your bank. You can request one if the money’s been taken out of your account but you haven’t received the goods in the time frame stated, and had no contact from the company after multiple attempts to get in touch.
You’re also entitled to reject the goods and claim a refund if the failure to deliver the goods to you on time is substantial (in other words, a reasonable consumer wouldn’t have agreed to purchasing the goods if they’d known about the delay).
If you can’t resolve the issue with the business, you can file a claim at the Disputes Tribunal. Find out more here.
It’s also a breach of the Fair Trading Act for a business to accept payment for goods without having reasonable grounds to believe it can supply the goods within the agreed time frame.
If you think a retailer has misled you or taken payment from you without having reasonable grounds to believe it can supply the goods on time, you can also report the business to the Commerce Commission.
The Commission doesn't act on behalf of individuals and can't investigate every complaint. But its investigations do help make sure businesses are complying with the law. Your information helps the Commission assess which consumer issues are causing greatest harm.
If you want advice specific to your situation, you can get in touch with us here. Consumer NZ members can contact us to speak directly with one of our advisers.
Fuel our fight for your rights
We’re working hard to keep big businesses and lawmakers in check on one-sided retirement village contracts, greenwashing claims, misleading supermarket prices and more. With your support, there’s power in numbers. Help us raise $50,000 in four weeks to stand up for your consumer rights.
Subscribe to our newsletters
Get even more Consumer NZ news and invitations to share your voice on important issues straight to your inbox. You don’t have to be a member to have these newsletters emailed to you regularly.