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Letters from December 2017

Each month, our experts answer members' questions. If you're a paying Consumer member and have a consumer issue, you can contact our advice line for help.


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Faulty repair

In March, my oven stopped working and I called an appliance technician to fix it. The selector switch was replaced and I was charged $494 for the initial call-out fee and repair. In September, the oven stopped working again. I called the technician and they discovered the selector switch they installed in March was faulty. They said the switch component itself would be supplied at no cost under their 12-month warranty, but the labour for fitting it would be a cost to me as their 3-month warranty for labour had expired. I feel I should be covered for the full costs under the Consumer Guarantees Act. Is this the case? BRUCE HEWITT

WE SAY: The technician has said the switch they supplied was faulty. So, even though the labour warranty has expired, you’re entitled to make a claim under the Consumer Guarantees Act for it to be replaced free and within a reasonable time. If the technician refuses to do the work under these conditions, you can employ someone else to fix the problem and claim the cost from the original technician. If they still refuse to cover the cost you can take your claim to the Disputes Tribunal.


Some pubs and clubs advertise drinks as “pints”, then serve them in a glass smaller than that. How can they get away with this? A MEMBER

WE SAY: Under a little-known law called the Weights and Measures Act, advertising beer – or anything else – by the “pint” is illegal. Traders that do so can be stung with an infringement notice fine of $200, or a maximum penalty of $10,000 if the case is taken to court (although that’s unlikely). You may want to point out the niceties of the law to the pub. If you think it’s trying to pull the wool or the tide is seriously out on your bevvy, you can report the trader to Trading Standards, which enforces the act, on 0508 627 774.

Immobile scooter

I bought a battery-operated mobile scooter for $4600. Within 15 months, the battery started playing up. It would stop working despite charging overnight. The retailer has refused to repair or replace the battery (worth about $700), saying the warranty was only for 1 year. It shrugs off responsibility to the manufacturer. Can the retailer do this? A MEMBER

WE SAY: Given the price of the battery, you wouldn’t expect to have to replace it at this early stage in the scooter’s life. The Consumer Guarantees Act applies as the battery is not of acceptable quality. The fact the 1-year warranty has expired isn’t relevant. Your rights under the act are in addition to any protection provided by the warranty. We suggest pointing this out to the retailer and asking for a replacement battery at no cost to you.

Television repair

Our television is 2½ years old and stopped working. We contacted the manufacturer and took the TV to its approved repairer to find out what the problem was. We paid $85 to get it checked out. The problem was a broken component. After several calls, and several weeks, the manufacturer said we could have a $400 trade-in on a new television, or we would have to pay the costs of fixing the old one. We disagreed. In our view, a 2½-year-old $2500 television should not be malfunctioning. After pointing this out, the manufacturer came back with an offer to pay for the labour ($163.50) but not the part ($263). Are we unrealistic in expecting this television to run trouble-free longer than it has? HANNAH HAWTHORN

WE SAY: You would reasonably expect a $2500 television to last longer than 2½ years. From what you’ve said, the television isn’t of acceptable quality, which entitles you to ask the retailer to either repair or replace it under the Consumer Guarantees Act – at no cost to you. If you choose to deal with the manufacturer, it’s required to compensate you for any loss in value of the product. If it refuses to sort out the problem, you can take a claim to the Disputes Tribunal.

Update: The manufacturer paid Hannah for the costs incurred to repair the TV.

Untimely break

I purchased a watch for $187 in March 2016. It came with a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty. The rubber watch strap tore off when it was unclipped from the charger a couple of days ago. I took the watch into the store I bought it from and it referred the problem to the supplier. I have now been told that, as it is not under warranty, there’s nothing the supplier can do. I have asked about getting the watch repaired and was told the store doesn’t have replacement straps, so it can’t be repaired and my only option is buying a new one. Do I have any rights to expect the watch to be replaced given the relatively short time I’ve owned it? A MEMBER

WE SAY: A seller must guarantee its products are durable and fit for purpose under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). Your watch strap breaking in this manner indicates these guarantees have not been met. It is also a requirement under the CGA that manufacturers ensure repair facilities or parts are available for a reasonable period after a good is sold. We suggest reminding the retailer of its CGA obligations and asking for a replacement or refund.

Update: The member was given a replacement watch.

Repairer’s lien

I took some jewellery to a jeweller for repair and cleaning. I was quoted $300 for the job. When I went to pick the jewellery up, I was told the cost was now $550. I disputed this amount and the jeweller said he was legally able to hold on to my jewellery until I paid. Does he have the right to do this? A MEMBER

Annette Barnes, Consumer finance research assistant, says: The jeweller is saying he has a “repairer’s lien”, which is the legal right for repairers to hold goods until they have been paid for work they’ve done. The right is “possessory”, which means it depends on the repairer having possession of the goods. However, in this case the jeweller can’t apply a lien because a quote is binding. This means you can’t be asked to pay more. Continuing to hold your jewellery means he may have to pay you damages. If you inform the jeweller of this and he still refuses to give back your jewellery, you could pay the new amount but tell him, preferably in writing, you’re doing so “without prejudice”. This means, even though you have agreed to pay, you reserve your rights to seek compensation in the Disputes Tribunal. Alternatively, you could try negotiating to pay the amount quoted and take possession of the jewellery but agree to take the case to the Disputes Tribunal.

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