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Letters from May 2017


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Standing firm

In 2012, we bought a mattress for about $1200 from a furniture retailer. We wanted a firm bed and were told the mattress was firm and had a 10-year warranty. 18 months later, the mattress softened. We went back to the store, which said it would forward our complaint to the manufacturer. An agent for the manufacturer inspected the mattress and said we had not been sold a firm mattress. The agent said the mattress would continue to soften. Since then we have visited the store, called and emailed to ask what can be done, with no solution offered. Now the mattress is saggy and the foam has worn down so that we can feel the spring system. We want the product replaced — can you help us? GURJINDER SINGH CHANDER

WE SAY: The Consumer Guarantees Act says a good must match the description given by the seller. In this case, you were told by the retailer the mattress was firm but the manufacturer has advised you it isn’t. You are entitled to ask the retailer for a replacement or a refund of your purchase price. If the retailer refuses to settle, you can lodge a claim with the Disputes Tribunal. It costs $45 to file a claim under $2000.

Sailing away

In December 2015, we purchased 2 waterproof shade sails and put them up. All good. In September 2016, we bought 2 more from the same retailer for $263 (including shipping). When the new sails arrived, we noticed they were much lighter in colour and weight than our original ones. I emailed the retailer and it said they were the same sail from the same supplier. After a month of use they started stretching out of shape, although our original ones stayed the same. We have contacted the retailer several times and it said it will give us a $40 refund less a restocking fee. We would like our money back. Where do we stand? TRACIE LANE

WE SAY: The sails you ordered are clearly not of acceptable quality or fit for purpose. As such, you are entitled to a refund of the purchase price under the Consumer Guarantees Act. You should point this out to the retailer and invite it to reconsider its response. When goods fall short of the guarantees provided in the act, a refund must be a full refund. The retailer can’t deduct a restocking fee.

Stretching the truth?

I recently bought a jersey with a label stating the garment was made from “premium stretch cotton using spandex”, but the label sewn into the side seam claimed the garment was 100% merino. When I pointed this out to the shop assistant, she said the jersey was “100% merino”. However, when I got home and had a closer inspection, it felt quite hard, not soft like my other merino knitwear, and I wondered if it might contain synthetic fibre. Most of us trust the labels on our garments, but how reliable are they? ADRIENNE MILLER

WE SAY: Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, a product must match the description given by the sales assistant. In this case, if your jersey isn’t “100% merino”, then you are entitled to a refund. Consumer information standards, issued under the Fair Trading Act, also require clothing to display an accurate fibre content label. Retailers that fail to comply can be prosecuted by the Commerce Commission.

Changing email

We had an issue with our internet provider but it was more convenient for us to stay with the company than to switch because we wanted to keep our email addresses. Why can’t we keep our email addresses when changing internet providers, like we do for phone numbers when we move house? I am reluctant to sign up for an offshore email address such as Gmail. A MEMBER

Hadyn Green, Consumer technology writer, says: Phone numbers are different from email addresses. A phone number is a string of numbers that can be assigned to almost any device on the network, whereas emails work on domains (the bit after the @ in an email address).

For example, with abcxyz@internetcompany.co.nz the @internetcompany.co.nz part is the domain and the domain is owned by an internet service provider (ISP). So, in this example, if the owner of the email address changed ISP, then their new provider would need access to the previous domain, which isn’t an easy task.

Think of it like moving house. You can’t get your mail delivered to your old address and then forwarded on to the new one without some expense. We recommend against using an email address associated with an ISP. Webmail services (such as Gmail) are free, secure — as long as you follow our security recommendations — and don’t require anything from an ISP if you move. You’ll also get the benefit of any improvements to the service that are rolled out.

Users pay?

Is it true road user charges (RUC) for diesel vehicles are a tax for heavy trucks and the like, which add more wear and tear to the roads, and not for lighter vehicles such as utes? PAUL GERAETS

Paul Smith, Consumer head of testing, says: RUC are a tax on all road-using diesel vehicles, some of which are probably paying too much. Petrol has a tax levy included in the price, so users of petrol vehicles pay their way at the pump. Diesel doesn’t have any road tax levy included in the price, hence it’s much cheaper at the pump.

The idea is taxing diesel at the pump is unfair to users who don’t drive on the roads, such as farmers and boaties. In the UK, they use red diesel for non-road users (literally dyed red), which is tax-free. Normal diesel has tax included at the pump. Here, all diesel users pay less at the pump but road users need to buy RUC licences to pay for their road use. This system also forces heavier diesel vehicles — big trucks — to pay relatively more, which is right as they do more damage to the roads.

The problem comes with how diesel vehicles are split into different RUC bands. The lowest band is <3.5 tonnes, which covers all passenger cars. Most of these are <2 tonnes. That band pays 6¢/km. The next band (up to 6 tonnes) pays 7¢/km — not so much more. That means the driver of a tiny diesel city car is charged almost as much per kilometre as a 6-tonne truck! It’s not particularly fair for diesel car owners, but given the problems with diesel pollution you might argue we shouldn’t be encouraging more of them. Some European cities are even banning them.

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