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Letters from August 2014

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I recently bought a ceramic pedestal basin from a shop in Christchurch. The shop wasn’t keen to give me a price to send the basin direct to my house as we’re in an isolated location, so we arranged to get it sent to a local transport company who then delivered it to our builder’s house. The transport company signed for the parcel it received but the basin arrived damaged. We now have a battle with the company who says it “just signed to confirm it had received the item – not that it was in good order”. My frustration is that the shop’s packaging was so poor it was highly likely the basin wouldn’t arrive in one piece. Can the shop be held responsible under the Consumer Guarantees Act for failing to package the basin properly?
DUNCAN AND GEORGIE MCGREGOR

When a retailer arranges delivery of a product, it’s responsible for getting it to you in good condition and on time. In cases where you decide to use a transport company to deliver the goods, the Carriage of Goods Act (now the Contract and Commercial Law Act) applies. If you signed a contract with the company, it’ll specify the company’s liability for goods damaged during transit. If you didn’t sign a contract, goods are carried at “limited carrier’s risk”. This means the company is liable for any unintentional damage up to $2000.

Unscripted

My son is a type 1 diabetic who has moved to Wellington. He hasn’t joined a doctor yet, so he went to the emergency clinic for some insulin. It charged him $100 for the doctor to write a prescription. He didn’t have $100 so he paid $50. I received a bill in the mail for the remaining $50 plus a statement charge of $15. I will pay the $50 remaining on the bill for him. Do I have to pay the statement charge as well?
A MEMBER

The clinic can charge an additional fee provided it warned your son of the fee at the time of his visit. A statement by the receptionist, a note in the pre-consultation form or a prominent sign in the reception area would be considered due warning. If no mention was made of the statement charge, you can dispute it. UPDATE: The clinic waived the statement fee.

The inconstant gardener

I purchased a voucher for gardening services from a daily deal website in April. When I phoned the gardener to book, she said her next available date was 15 May. On that day, she failed to turn up. I phoned the gardener again and she told me she was behind because of the weather. I asked her to phone me when she was next available. When I didn’t hear back, I tried to call her but she didn’t answer or reply to my messages. Meanwhile the voucher expired. I sent a message to the website asking for a refund, which it refused because I failed to redeem my voucher “within its validity period”. Do I have any rights in this situation?
A MEMBER

Based on your letter, both the Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act may apply. Under the first Act, traders can’t mislead you about the availability of goods or services. Under the second Act, both the gardener and the website must carry out their services with reasonable care and skill. As the gardener has gone AWOL, contact the website again and remind it of its obligations.

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