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Letters from May 2016


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Bad ride

In August last year, I purchased a mountain bike and used it until November, when I found the frame had cracked. I stopped riding the bike and informed the retailer of the problem. It said it would have a replacement bike for me in February. I emailed the store in March to ask what was going on. I found out the retailer was now only prepared to replace the frame. I view the frame as a substantial part of the bike. Am I entitled to my money back? CHRIS FINN

The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) requires goods to be of acceptable quality. Your bike clearly didn’t measure up to this standard. You wouldn’t have bought it if you’d known the frame would crack after just a few months of riding. Under the Act, where a product has a substantial fault the consumer has the right to reject the item and claim a refund or replacement. We consider a cracked frame on a bike to be a major fault. As such, you’re entitled to reject the bike and ask the retailer for a full refund.

UPDATE: Chris rejected the bike and asked for a refund under the CGA. The retailer agreed to his request.

Layby sales

I was recently in a store and took a fancy to a winter coat. It was widely advertised within the store all prices were discounted by 25 percent, so I decided to buy the coat. I wanted to put it on layby and pay it off over the next couple of weeks. The shop assistant assured me that if I was putting the item on layby, then it had to be paid off at the non-discounted rate and I could not have the 25 percent off. Can a shop do that? LORRAINE WOOD

If a store offers a layby service, it doesn’t have to offer the service for sale goods. Stores may put up a sign saying “no laybys on sale items”, or words to that effect. But if the shop is willing to offer layby on sale items we think it’s on shaky ground charging customers the pre-sale price. In the case of your winter coat, you’re effectively being asked to pay a 25 percent surcharge. Retailers attempting to sell goods at a higher price than advertised risk breaching the Fair Trading Act. They also risk breaching the Act if they charge interest or extra fees on layby sales. The only fee that can be charged on a layby sale is a fee if you cancel the deal.

Screen replacement

My son purchased an LCD screen for me via an online New Zealand trader. He installed the screen for me but it did not work properly. We went back to the trader and requested a refund for the faulty screen. The trader agreed to the refund less 30 percent to cover a restocking fee. Is this fair? FELIPA ZABALA

The deduction of 30 percent is neither fair nor lawful. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, a refund for faulty goods should be a refund of the money paid for the goods. That is, you should get back the full purchase price. The retailer is not entitled to charge a “restocking fee”. We suggest you point this out to the retailer and ask it to provide the full refund required by law.

Diamonds are forever?

We purchased an engagement ring for $2200 six years ago. Twelve months after purchase the main diamond fell out. The jeweller honoured its warranty and sent the ring to Australia for repairs. Now the ring has completely come apart and requires repair and replacement of the smaller diamonds. We have been quoted $330 for total repairs. My question is: should we expect an engagement ring to last longer than six years? A MEMBER

We’d expect a $2200 ring to last longer than six years without needing repair. If you’ve looked after the ring and haven’t caused the damage, you may have grounds for a claim under the Consumer Guarantees Act. The Act requires goods to be of acceptable quality. This includes being durable and free from minor defects. When a product fails to meet this guarantee, the retailer has an obligation to put things right. The guarantees provided by the Act are additional to any manufacturer’s warranty.

Just the ticket?

We have booked and paid for two tickets with Viagogo for an Andre Rieu concert in Auckland in November. Everything has gone well and we received our two printable tickets within two days. Our problem is the tickets are in someone else’s name. Viagogo says “we’re a ticket marketplace for people to buy and sell tickets. Although your own name may not be on the tickets, they are perfectly fine and valid to use”. Everything’s probably fine but thought I’d see what you think. TIM CARR

Kate Sluka, Consumer finance writer, says: Viagogo is a ticket reseller. The company says all tickets offered on its site are “100% guaranteed” — even if they’re in someone else’s name — and it doesn’t pay the seller until after the event. If you did get stuck with invalid tickets, you’d have the right to claim a refund from the company, although that may be cold comfort if you’ve missed out on an event. The Consumer Guarantees Act also gives you the right to claim consequential losses such as travel expenses.

Ticketmaster, the official ticket seller for the Andre Rieu concert, says it can’t guarantee tickets are legitimate unless they’ve been bought from it directly.

If you’re tempted to buy tickets from a reseller, check out the company you’re dealing with before handing over any money. As well as the risk of fake tickets, you could get stung by scalpers — people selling tickets at inflated prices to make a quick buck. Paying by credit or debit card will give you the chance to claim a “chargeback” from your bank if something goes wrong.

A burning issue

A newspaper article referred to spontaneous combustion occurring when, along with other instances, clothes had been dried in a clothes dryer. Could you provide more information about this and what steps may be taken to eliminate such an occurrence? A MEMBER

George Block, Consumer technical writer, says: Spontaneous combustion can occur when tea towels or rags coated with residue from organic oils (such as cooking or linseed oil) are left bunched up. They can ignite, with no heat source necessary, as organic oils have self-heating properties if handled incorrectly. According to the Fire Service, spontaneous combustion caused almost 1400 fires over the past 10 years. Before throwing a load into your clothes dryer, make sure items exposed to oil (or any flammable product) have been washed in hot water to remove any flammable residue. Always let the dryer complete its cool-down cycle then remove the load and spread it out, ideally on a non-flammable surface. You should also clean the lint filter every time you use the dryer and regularly vacuum lint from surrounding walls. This greatly reduces the risk of fire from overheating, as dry lint is highly flammable. Cleaning the filter will also improve your dryer’s performance. If the dryer is ducted to the outside, remove any lint from the duct and the exhaust vent.

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