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Letters from June 2015

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Dog tale

We purchased a golden retriever puppy last year for $2000. He is now 14 months old and the vet has advised that he is riddled with arthritis and that the problem is genetic. Where do we stand as the dog is going to need lots of operations and long-term care? If we purchased what we thought was a pedigree dog and that is genetically not the case, where do we stand? STEPHEN BROOMFIELD

If the seller told you the dog was a pedigree and that’s not the case, you have grounds for a claim under the Consumer Guarantees Act. Under the Act, a dog (like other goods) must be of acceptable quality and comply with its description. We recommend you write to the seller and point out its responsibilities under the Act. If the company refuses to acknowledge the problem, you can go to the Disputes Tribunal.

In a previous case involving a purebred puppy that was later diagnosed with a genetic disease, the tribunal referee determined that not only was the seller liable for the reduction in the dog’s value that resulted from the defect, it was also liable for the costs that would be incurred because of ongoing vet bills (called “foreseeable consequential loss”). While tribunal decisions do not set a legal precedent, your case would raise similar issues.

Shining a light

In June 2008, I purchased a LED dynamo flashlight from a power tool retailer and was delighted with it. However, last year when it “died” a new battery was not available, so I replaced it with a solar-powered dynamo torch/radio on 11 April 2014. The winding handle broke and glue would not work on the plastic. I returned to the shop and it was replaced on 23 March 2015. It was only guaranteed until 11 April 2015! The guarantee was for one year on the first one and that includes any replacement! The implication is, that if you buy it on the Friday (for example) and it dies and is replaced 364 days later on the Thursday, it’s guaranteed for one day! Is this correct? DENYS MARETT

The retailer is correct – the manufacturer’s warranty runs from the original purchase. The good news is that the Consumer Guarantees Act protects you anyway and will usually offer better protection than the warranty. The Act requires goods to be of acceptable quality. That includes being durable and free from minor defects. If a product fails through no fault of your own, you’re entitled to ask the retailer to put things right – even after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.

Sound advice

I purchased a sound system from an online store in January 2015. When I received the unit, it was very badly scratched in many places and the black coating on the unit was peeling off. The store said it needed photos of the damage, which I sent. They gave me the option of a $40 credit and keeping the unit or sending it back and getting a full refund. I opted for a full refund. Now, it’s asking me to fill out a warranty assessment form. A few months have passed and I still have not received my refund. What are my rights? BELLA WALKER

You should remind the store of your rights – and its obligations – under the Consumer Guarantees Act. The Act says goods must be of acceptable quality. That means they must be of acceptable finish (as well as durable and fit-for-purpose). As your stereo system doesn’t meet this requirement, the store must provide a remedy within a reasonable time. We think three or four months is far too long to process a refund.

UPDATE: The store eventually provided Bella with a full refund.

Seven weeks overdue

I purchased a mobile phone in November 2014, which turned itself off after three months and wouldn’t come back on. I sent the phone back for repair but as yet have not had it returned. It is now seven weeks since I sent it in and I have been in communications with them during this time. I am unwilling to wait any longer and have requested a refund but they are refusing to offer this and insist that I wait for the phone to be repaired/replaced. Can they do this? What avenues can I pursue to get this resolved? STEVEN WHITE

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, repairs must be carried out within a reasonable time. Failing that the customer may demand a refund or a replacement. The time frame here has clearly gone beyond what is reasonable. For a virtually new phone to be away for seven weeks is ridiculous. We suggest you tell the company in writing that you are rejecting the phone and why. Let them know you expect a refund. If they refuse a refund, then you can lodge a claim with the Disputes Tribunal.

Thermal breaks in aluminium window frames

I am building a new house in Wanaka that will have a lot of windows. I have been encouraged, by a glass manufacturer, to use thermal break technology in our house’s double glazed windows. Thermal breaks are considerably dearer than normal aluminium frames. Can you please advise if it is really worth the extra 20 percent cost? A MEMBER

Aluminium is a very good thermal conductor, so in winter you could lose a significant amount of heat through your window frames – the very thing double glazing is meant to prevent. Thermally broken window frames have inner and outer aluminium sections separated by a strip of insulating material. Thermal breaks also help prevent condensation building up on the frame. If you are going to use aluminium then I’d definitely recommend the thermal break option, especially as the house is in Wanaka where you’ll want to retain as much heat as possible.

Vacuum dirt disposal

If you are going to test vacuum cleaners, why do you ignore the issue of emptying the dirt thereby collected? The reason I have a Dyson is that it is so easy and fast to empty. KATHLEEN MURDOCH

Our tests do consider the ease of emptying dirt collected, whether in a bin or bag. It is one of the assessments included within our “ease of use” score, and something we recognise as an important consideration. Ease of use forms 30 percent of the overall vacuum cleaner performance score.

Other factors assessed in the “ease of use” rating include the vacuum’s ability to clean under low furniture, the on-board tools and their versatility, the cleaner’s mobility, how easy the controls are to use, and the movement of the cleaning head.

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