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Letters from July 2015

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Assessing my fee

I bought a cellphone via a mobile provider’s website. I paid $215 less a discount of $26.70 – total $188.30 on 30 November 2014. Yesterday the phone died – it was more than 75 percent charged and had no water or other damage. I checked the provider’s website and found that submitting the repair form gave it the right to deduct money for an assessment fee from my credit card. I am happy to pay to send my phone to and from the provider but I am not happy about potentially paying a quarter of the purchase price ($55) to have the phone checked. GRAHAM McHAFFIE

Unfortunately, charging an assessment fee is not illegal. However, if the phone is found to be faulty, the company should refund the fee and fix the problem free of charge.

If the company is a member of the Telecommunication Dispute Resolution scheme (TDR), it shouldn’t be charging a fee. The TDR said it considers scheme members aren’t entitled to charge a fee prior to assessing a mobile phone for damage. You can check if the company is a member of the TDR at www.tdr.org.nz.

Satisfaction NOT guaranteed

I have a query about a recent situation with a physiotherapist that has refused a refund under their “100% satisfaction guarantee” and wondered if I had any redress with this. I attended my initial consult thinking I would have the session under ACC for work-related gradual process injury, but was adamantly told ACC did not cover this, although I protested that it was on ACC’s website. I paid for two sessions, but was not convinced the therapist was on the right track with diagnosis. For this and financial reasons, I did not go back. I later double-checked on the ACC website and found that I was correct about the work-related cover and I advised the physiotherapist by email. She apologised by email that she had made a mistake and offered me a free 30-minute therapeutic massage but no refund under their 100% satisfaction guarantee. FRAN SMITH

From what you’ve said, there are two arguments on which to base a claim for a refund. The first is the wording of the guarantee, which in unequivocal terms guarantees a refund where a customer is unsatisfied with the service they’ve received (which you clearly are). The second is the fact that in not realising the treatment may be covered by ACC the physiotherapist has failed to carry out the service provided to you with reasonable care and skill. We suggest you point this out to them and ask them to reconsider their decision to refuse a refund. You could complain to the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand (www.physioboard.org.nz) if you don’t get a satisfactory response.

If you are heading to a physiotherapist for treatment for a work-related injury, check if they are ACC registered and ask them if you can lodge a claim form (ACC45). If your claim is successful there are various costs that may be covered by ACC including treatment costs and compensation for loss of earnings. You may also want to ask the physiotherapist if ACC will cover the total cost of your treatment or if there will be a surcharge.

UPDATE: Fran returned to the physiotherapist armed with our expert opinion and was given a full refund.

Store credit or refund?

One year ago, I purchased a leather handbag at a cost of $199.90. About a month ago, the lock catch failed and the handle came off. There was no way of fixing these issues without defacing the bag. I returned the bag to the supplier who took it back and said they would sort it. I was then asked to go into the store and see if they had another bag I liked and they would exchange the product or give me store credit. I went back to the store and could not see a bag I liked and have asked for a refund. They are checking this out with the store owner. I believe the goods were not fit for purpose and I should be able to get a refund, am I right here? KAYE TURPIN

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, if a product has a minor fault and can be fixed the retailer can choose to either repair or replace it or provide a refund. But if the problem can’t be repaired or is substantial, you have the right to choose a replacement or a refund. The retailer can’t just offer a credit note. If you want a refund you’re entitled to it – by cash, cheque or credit card charge reversal.

UPDATE: The store eventually gave Kaye a full refund.

Faulty receiver

We purchased an Onkyo AV receiver from a retailer in 2011 for $991. Two weeks ago it developed a fault where it would not play audio from any source. On researching, this is a known fault and Onkyo are actually replacing the faulty HDMI board. We went back to the retailer who told us it was not something they could resolve and hadn’t heard of it and suggested we contact Onkyo. After contacting Onkyo, they confirmed it was a known issue and suggested we make contact with their service agents in New Zealand. Onkyo mentioned this was a free replacement. When we contacted the agents they informed us there was a charge for this ($98 plus freight costs to and from Dunedin, which for an AV receiver will be rather expensive). Given this is a known fault and the unit is less than four years old should this not be repaired under the CGA? KERYN PRATT

Given that this failure appears to be the result of a manufacturing fault, you should be covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. Both the retailer and the New Zealand distributor are responsible under the Act. We suggest you go back to the retailer and point this out to them. Ask them to reconsider their response to your request for a remedy. Under the Act, they should either repair or replace the receiver, or refund you the purchase price .

UPDATE: The receiver was repaired with the retailer paying the repair charge and freight costs.

Inefficient heat pumps

Your reports never seem to advise the efficiency of heat pumps in minus 5°C or less. Most heat pumps are notoriously ineffective when the temperature gets into the minuses. So for us down here in Queenstown, I’m sure a lot of us would be interested in a true test. I’m getting close to having to buy a new one and need to know. I have five Daikins (small through to large) at present and am somewhat annoyed when spending 20 minutes without heat while they recycle and get rid of the ice. MAX HENRY

The worst conditions for frost forming on a heat pump, triggering defrost mode, are between 0° and 5°C. Surprisingly, heat pumps usually shouldn’t have to defrost when the temperature goes below zero as there’s almost no water left in the air to freeze. This means a heat pump that goes into defrost mode at 2°C may run continuously at -5°C. Something you should consider when buying your next heat pump is its H2 capacity. This is how much heat the unit can produce at 2°C. Ideally, you should look for a heat pump with an H2 capacity close to its standard kW rating. However, you should be aware many heat pumps on the New Zealand market don’t provide their H2.

Tips on preventing heat pumps from frosting:

  • Try and place outdoor units on a north- or west-facing wall.
  • Fix any leaking gutters that drip on to outdoor units.
  • Stop water pooling near the base of any units by improving drainage.
  • Make sure outdoor intakes and outlets are unobstructed.

Where’s the beef?

I recently bought some Fishers Corned Silverside and was shocked when I got home to discover it only contained 61 percent beef! When I phoned the company my concerns were dismissed. A pity because tasty Fishers Corned Silverside cooks well. Should I be taking my beef further or is this normal? MIRIAM ELL

Corned beef is a cured meat product. During the curing process brine (a mixture of water, salt and other additives) is injected into the meat. In the ingredients list the percentage of beef is calculated as a proportion of all the ingredients, which includes the injected brine and the surrounding fluid around the pack. When we checked other brands of corned silverside, we found they also had about 60 percent beef.

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