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Letters from April 2017


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Loose line

I recently purchased a rotary clothes line from a New Zealand-based online hardware store. Due to consistent inclement weather, I would have used the line about 10 times. However, the tension locking lever is made of plastic and has broken. Consequently, the line will not stay up, resulting in my washing dragging on the ground. After complaining to the retailer, we have been advised that “some time in the future” it will send us a replacement. Due to the inferior quality of the locking mechanism, we don’t want a replacement but a refund. Can we reject the inferior replacement and insist on a refund? CAROLYN GOSS

WE SAY: Since you can’t get your washing dry using the clothes line in its current condition, the product’s not of acceptable quality. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), the retailer must provide a remedy within a reasonable time. Telling you a replacement lever will be sent at some point is not good enough. As the store has failed to repair the clothes line, the CGA gives you the right to reject the product and choose a replacement of the same type and similar value or a full refund. You could also get the line repaired by someone else and claim costs from the retailer.

Obsolete oven

About five years ago, we bought an oven for almost $4000. A few weeks ago, a pot of water boiled over and leaked down the back of the oven. Only the induction top now works. I phoned a repair company and was told the oven is obsolete and can’t be fixed as there are no parts available. Do I have any comeback? I feel five years is not old for an oven and a pot boiling over should not cause it to stop working. BARBARA SMITH

WE SAY: The Consumer Guarantees Act manufacturers (and importers) to ensure spare parts and repair services are available for a reasonable time after goods are sold – unless you’re told when you make your purchase they won’t be available. We estimate an oven should last at least 15 years. As your appliance can’t be repaired, you’re entitled to ask the manufacturer for compensation.

UPDATE: Barbara’s retailer negotiated a partial refund with the NZ importer. She was happy to accept.

Green fees

I engaged a gardening and landscape company to do work on my property. I verbally agreed with the owner the work would be done for $1000. I made sure he was aware of the weeding and planting required. Two gardeners came and completed the work in one day. Today, I received an invoice for $1478.56 (inclusive of GST). In an email sent with the invoice, the company owner acknowledged he was over budget. I have attempted to negotiate a more reasonable price than the one on the invoice. I would like to know whether I can stick to the verbally agreed price. A MEMBER

WE SAY: You are entitled to rely on the verbal agreement with the company. An oral agreement is an agreement nonetheless. As there was no specific reference to GST by the owner, it’s fair for you to assume that had been factored into the verbal quote. If the price was exclusive of GST, this should have been indicated at the time of agreement.

Under the gun

I purchased a shotgun in March 2016. Since then it has jammed and not functioned properly. The retailer told me I needed to run more ammunition through. When the gun was still malfunctioning in December, I asked about its warranty status. The retailer confirmed it was still under warranty and told me to bring it in for servicing. When I later picked it up I was told no problem had been found with the gun. However, when I tried it at home it still didn’t function properly and had the same issue as before. I am not happy as it hasn’t performed to expectation. What are my rights? DAVID LARK

George Block, Consumer technical writer, says: We consulted Murray Cameron, a gunsmith of 50 years’ experience, about this one. In his view, the magazine spring of this model of shotgun is too light to reliably feed ammunition. He says it should be a simple matter of the retailer replacing the factory spring with a heavier one. Murray says he’s replaced the magazine springs in a number of these guns and it’s solved the issue. I’d recommend taking the gun back to the retailer and asking it to perform this repair free under the Consumer Guarantees Act. The store can also opt to replace the gun or give you a refund.

UPDATE: David went back to the retailer with our recommendation and got a refund.

How hot is hot?

I have recently had a wood burner installed. I noticed the certified average heat output was 6.7kW. I also noticed the manufacturer claimed a peak output of up to 14kW. How does it calculate these numbers? It seems to me the certified average needs clarification. How does the manufacturer claim a heat output of twice that average? PETER DARE

Paul Smith, Head of Testing, says: The amount of heat a wood burner produces depends on how long the fire has been running; the type, quantity, quality and size of wood; and how often it’s refuelled. The 6.7kW rating on your wood burner is derived from mandatory National Environmental Standards (NES) testing. We use these results for scoring heat output of wood burners because they give a consistent and repeatable result for every burner on the market. The trouble is the NES test often understates what you can achieve in your home. This is especially pronounced for larger wood burners as they aren’t run long enough to completely heat up. The figure of 14kW for your burner is based on the New Zealand Home Heating Association (NZHHA) test method. In this test, the wood burner is refuelled every 20 minutes and reaches its peak output. We reference the NZHHA result as well where available. In use, your wood burner’s typical peak output will fall somewhere between these numbers, only approaching 14kW after a few hours of regular stoking.

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