Letters from June 2017


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Dodgy Audi

I bought a 2006 Audi A3 for $16,995 in September last year from a used car dealer. It had 85,000km on the clock and a 6-month warranty. Five days after purchase, the car wouldn’t start. The dealer organised a mechanic to do the repairs. Since then, the car has been back to the mechanic 3 times. I don’t think the initial problem was fixed properly. Since I’ve owned the car, it has been out of action for about 6 weeks and I’ve had to borrow a vehicle. I want the dealer to take it back and give me a refund but it insists it’s entitled to have the car repaired under the Consumer Guarantees Act. It is now out of warranty. Am I within my rights to get a refund or not? HOLLIE FORDE

WE SAY: The amount of time your car has been off the road since it was purchased is unreasonable for a $17,000 car with 85,000km on the clock. In our view, a reasonable consumer wouldn’t have paid that price if they’d known the car would need a series of repairs and be off the road for 6 weeks so soon after purchase. Where a product isn’t of acceptable quality and the failure is substantial, the Consumer Guarantees Act gives you the right to reject the item and request a refund or replacement. To support your claim, we suggest getting an independent mechanic’s report and a quote for repairs. If the dealer won’t play ball, you can take your case to the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal (MVDT).

Warranty failure

Sixteen months ago, I bought a laptop. The price was $687, but with add-ons the total was $1136. I also paid $99 for an extended warranty. Unfortunately, the laptop failed. The retailer told me it could not be repaired and that it would only refund $687, claiming the warranty only covered that part of the purchase price. What are my rights here? A MEMBER

WE SAY: The expensive warranty you were sold actually provided less protection than you were entitled to as of right under the Consumer Guarantees Act. The problem with your computer is substantial and the Act says you have the right to reject the product and choose a replacement of the same type and similar value or a full refund of your purchase price, which includes the add-ons. We recommend going back to the retailer and pointing out its CGA obligations.

UPDATE: Our member was given a replacement laptop and printer.

Big for his boots

Last winter, my husband bought a pair of boots with a 1-year manufacturer’s guarantee. He has worn them for hunting and recreation. After 6 months, he saw the inner lining was splitting and wearing down. He took them back and the retailer sent them to the manufacturer to be repaired. The boots were returned with an extra lining over the top of the old lining, making the boots much smaller and extremely difficult to put on. The retailer has refused to do anything, except offering a discount on a new pair. If we took up this offer, we would have spent about $900 for a pair of boots! What can we do about this? A MEMBER

WE SAY: When a product has a minor fault, the retailer can choose between 3 options: repair the item, replace it or refund the purchase price. The remedy it chooses must be provided within a reasonable time. Failing that, the customer may reject the item and request either a replacement or a refund. In this case, the repair was not acceptable and couldn’t be said to have remedied the fault. We think you’re entitled to a refund or a replacement at no cost.

Water woes

I bought a Russell Hobbs Whisper electric jug. My problem is even after following instructions of boiling water 3 times and rinsing it out before using, water from the jug has a strong plastic smell and flavour. After a week of use, I rinsed the jug with a strong bleach mix, but the problem remained. The store replaced the jug with the same model, and I went through the boiling and rinsing process again, but it also has the plastic smell and taste. Have you had any complaints about these jugs and how do you suggest I fix this problem? MAURICE GRAY

Libby Manley, Consumer senior writer, says: Your electric jug problem is one we often hear about from members. And it’s not just causing grief here. Our UK equivalent Which? has also investigated the issue. It found the most likely cause of the foul flavour was a reaction occurring between chlorine in tap water and phenol-based compounds, which can be found in the plastic and rubber parts of electric jugs. This reaction makes the water taste and smell terrible. As for remedying the problem, you can try using a filter jug, available at many kitchen and appliance stores, to filter out chlorine in your water before boiling. You may also want to look for an electric jug with minimal plastic parts.

Cheesed off

The last couple of times I’ve bought tasty cheese it’s been no stronger in taste than regular colby. Because tasty is more expensive, I feel ripped off. What defines a tasty cheese, and is there a standard so consumers can be sure they are getting what they pay for? LISA FLOYD

Belinda Castles, Consumer senior writer says: This isn’t the first time a consumer has asked us who is taking the tasty out of their tasty cheese! The main difference between a mild and tasty cheese is age — the longer a cheese is ripened and stored, the tastier it becomes. Mild cheeses are matured for about 3 to 6 months, tasty cheese 9 to 12 months, and vintage and epicure anywhere from 1 to 3 years. There are no standards defining what makes a tasty cheese so it’s not something we can test.

Master cheesemaker Neil Willman says, over time, cheddar cheese becomes less waxy or less flexible. This results in harder cheese, and as the cheese ages, it will become crumbly. When a cheese gets to be extra tasty or “vintage” you may start to see tiny white crystals forming on the outside of the block. Neil suggests finding a consistently tasty brand and sticking with it — but expect to pay a little extra because aging a cheese costs money.

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