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Letters from December 2015


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Price floored

I ordered some vinyl in a shop at $63 per metre. I asked for price confirmation twice. The second time, the salesperson mentioned the store charged the price “plus freight”. I said I would not need to pay freight as I was picking it up from the shop. He said the freight cost was for getting it from the factory to the shop – “around $40”. My question is: can the store do this? The advertised price was for vinyl it didn’t have in-store and had to order. But isn’t it misleading pricing when the store then requires me to pay for freight to the shop? Shouldn’t the in-store price include freight? I would appreciate it if you could give me some advice. HEIDE HOFFMANN

The store has failed to display the true price of goods. The cost of freight should have been clearly displayed so customers could make an informed choice. Failing to do so risks misleading consumers about the price of the vinyl and breaching the Fair Trading Act. You could consider making a complaint to the Commerce Commission, which enforces the Act.

Phone blues

Last week, I purchased a mobile phone. The store told me it was 4G but it turned out it wasn’t. The store replaced the phone but the problem is the replacement’s battery doesn’t even last a day and the display is not as described. This purchase took place last week and the store has a 14-day right of exchange. However, I went into the store today and spoke to the manager who refuses to exchange it for another better quality phone. I want to know if I have been fairly treated. NILESH NARAYAN

The company’s returns policy is irrelevant if the phone has the problems you describe. This is because you will be entitled to a replacement or a refund under the Consumer Guarantees Act. Under the Act, the retailer must guarantee its goods match the description given in advertisements or sales brochures, or by the sales assistant. It appears this hasn’t happened in your case. Also the goods must be of acceptable quality – the battery problem with your phone does not meet this guarantee. We’d suggest you point this out to the store manager and ask them to reconsider their position.

UPDATE: Nilesh received a refund when he returned to the store.

Hefty corkage

My wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary at a restaurant with friends. We confirmed with the establishment it was BYO and supplied our own wine but were charged $25 per person for corkage, a considerable amount. I emailed the restaurant with my concerns and the manager replied it was not BYO and there was a mistake by the restaurant supervisor. He agreed the corkage was excessive and offered us a one-off discount of 25 percent the next time we dine with them. However, I would like a refund. What would you advise? GARY RAWNSLEY

A restaurant with an on-licence to sell liquor is also permitted to let customers bring their own alcohol. However, some restaurants choose not to do so. The supervisor allowing you to bring your own wine into the restaurant when company policy dictated it was not BYO is an internal staff training issue and not relevant to your corkage charge issue. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, if no price is agreed or set for a service, it has to be reasonable. Both you and the manager have indicated the price per bottle seems excessive. We suggest getting back in touch with the restaurant and asking for a refund.

Update: Gary contacted the manager and received a $100 refund.

Solar savings?

I have a question about solar power provider deals. We would like to install some solar panels on our roof and have been offered a deal by a provider. It includes installing and maintaining its PV panels at no cost. However, the possible catch is we pay a set amount per month to use the solar power and that price is locked in for 20 years. Is this a fair deal? What do you think? A MEMBER

These schemes are known as solar power purchasing agreements (SPPAs), and have proved popular overseas. They’re basically rental-and-servicing arrangements, where the solar provider retains ownership of the panels and is responsible for maintenance.

The idea is that just after installation, your combined solar fee and your grid electricity bill will match, or be lower than, the amount you currently pay for power, due to the savings you’re now getting from solar. Installers then say these savings will increase annually as electricity prices rise. However, it’s far from certain the retail power price will increase year-on-year for 20 years.

The projected annual and lifetime savings advertised for SPPAs rely on 100 percent in-home consumption, and you’ll only get close to this if you have someone home all day every day or have a high level of baseline demand like a heated swimming pool. We think these schemes are only worth considering if you’re confident you can use most of the power generated by panels during the day and have the ability to keep up with 240 monthly payments over the 20-year period.

As for what happens if you move before the term is up, you’ll have to either:

  • Convince the new buyer to take over the remaining payments.
  • Move the system to your new home (incurring an additional fee).
  • Prepay the remaining monthly fees and have the new owner take over the panels, and any other payments associated with the system, such as maintenance costs.

Who brings home the bacon?

I would like to know if New Zealand imports pork and if so from where? DESMOND DADDY

According to Statistics New Zealand, the total value of pork imports for the year ended December 2014 was NZ$156.9 million, a 25 percent increase since 2011. Last year, the majority of imported pork came from Denmark (21 percent), Canada (19 percent), Finland (18 percent), USA (17 percent), Sweden (9 percent) , and Australia (8 percent). In 2011, the Ministry for Primary Industries decided to allow raw pig meat to be imported into New Zealand under strict conditions. For the year ended September 2014, the New Zealand pork industry produced 670,000 pigs for the local market. According to industry figures, the domestic industry produces just over half (51 percent) of all pork meat consumed in New Zealand.

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