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Letters from August 2017


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Duvet dilemma

Recently, I purchased a duvet cover and pillowcases from an online bedding store. When the goods arrived, I didn’t feel they were the colour depicted online. I didn’t even take them out of the box and phoned the company for instructions on returning them. The store was unhappy I wanted to return the product and offered a credit note instead. I was adamant I wanted a refund, which it reluctantly agreed to – with a $10 “replacement” fee! On my insistence, it agreed not to charge the $10. The refund eventually came through but I was disappointed with the retailer. Can you please advise me of my rights? VORREI MAHER

WE SAY: When goods don’t match the description given by the seller, it has to provide a remedy. In this case, you’re entitled to request a replacement (which matches the description) or a refund. A refund under the Consumer Guarantees Act is a refund of the purchase price, not a store credit. It should be the full purchase price – the seller is not entitled to charge a replacement or restocking fee.

Distributor “goodwill”

In June last year, we bought an induction cooktop that has had numerous faults. We’ve contacted the distributor, which told us a replacement unit would probably be no different and offered us a refund. However, the refund of the purchase price ($2599) and installation fee ($60) is to be provided as a gesture of goodwill only. The company admits no liability. As a condition of receiving the refund, the distributor demands we sign a “deed of release” that basically releases it from any liability stemming from the supply of the cooktop, and requires us to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. Can you please advise whether these conditions on a refund are legal? A MEMBER

WE SAY: The company acknowledged the cooktop was faulty and a replacement would not solve the problems you’ve faced. A refund is no more than what you are entitled to under the Consumer Guarantees Act. There’s no provision in the act for making a refund contingent on a confidentiality clause. The distributor (and, for that matter, the retailer) can’t refuse to provide what you’re legally entitled to on the grounds you don’t agree to its conditions. Sellers can’t contract out of the act, which is what the distributor is trying to do. We suggest you make this clear to the company and ask it to reconsider its position.

Faulty recorder

My DVD recorder required a new motherboard after only three-and-a-half years. The repair cost $380. When I pointed out my rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act, the retailer repaired the machine at no cost but charged an inspection fee of $80, passed on by the repair service agent. Am I liable to pay the fee? CHRISTINE ROSENDALE

WE SAY: No. Some retailers charge an inspection fee to assess a product prior to repair. But when an item has a fault that’s covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act, you’re entitled to have the fee refunded – as well as have the product repaired free. The $80 fee you’ve been charged should be reimbursed by the retailer, if you’ve already paid it, or paid directly by the retailer to the agent.

Bike flight

I bought a Scott E-Genius 920 electric mountain bike. It’s great! However, I’ve been told it needs to be insured as a motorcycle because of how powerful its motor is. Your article on e-bikes advised they should be insurable under contents insurance – is this still right? I would also like to take my bike on a plane from Auckland to Nelson. Do I need to ship the battery separately? JAMES LITTLEJOHN

Maggie Edwards, Consumer adviser, says: The motor on your bike has a maximum power output of 250W, so it is officially classed as a “power-assisted cycle”, not a motor vehicle (the limit is 300W). You can insure it in the same way as you would a bicycle. The best way is by adding it to your contents insurance, if it’s not automatically covered. Check your policy covers your bike when locked in a public place, not just when stored at home, and includes third-party cover when riding. Unfortunately, as your e-bike’s battery is 500Wh, you will not be able to fly with it. Anything more than 160Wh can’t go on Air New Zealand or Jetstar planes, either as check-in or carry on.

Rodent-proof insulation?

We are about to insulate our ceilings. What insulation can you recommend that mice and rats won’t eat and that can get around the many dwangs and beams? A MEMBER

George Block, Consumer technical writer, says: No insulation is rodent-proof – they’ll gnaw and nest in anything. However, rats and mice are less keen on polyester insulation than other types. Polyester insulation is also good at retaining its thickness and integrity, and it’s easy to install. You can easily cut polyester insulation to size with a saw or craft knife. If installing polyester insulation isn’t practical, then consider loose-fill insulation, which is blown into the ceiling space. Blown fibreglass or wool are better options for loose-fill insulation than macerated paper as the latter has a poor reputation for not retaining its “loft” (thickness). It can also move around after installation, leading to uninsulated gaps, compromising heat retention.

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