Letters from May 2018

Each month, our experts answer members' questions. If you're a paying Consumer member and have a consumer issue, you can contact our advice line for help.

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Car refund

In September 2017, I bought a new car from a dealer for about $30,000. A month later, it was discovered the vehicle had a fault. The dealer suggested replacing the transmission to repair the fault but I wasn’t happy to accept such major work on a new vehicle. The manufacturer agreed to replace the car. The following month the same problem happened with the replacement. We advised the dealer and agreed to keep an eye on things. The problem got worse and the same fault was confirmed. Again, the dealer wanted to replace the transmission. I asked for a refund and it agreed. The issue is the amount of the refund. The dealer wants to pay me the purchase price of the vehicle. However, there are other fees associated with buying the car, including interest on financing it through the dealer. I took finance because I thought I was getting a reliable vehicle. I am now having to walk away with $2000 less than what the car cost me. Could you please let me know my rights? A MEMBER

WE SAY: Having supplied not one but two cars with serious faults, the dealer must provide a refund. That refund must be a refund of all the money you paid for the car. Because the dealer arranged the finance, it must pay all the costs associated with that too. We suggest you point this out to the dealer and ask it to reconsider the offer.

UPDATE: A refund of the full cost, including finance fees, was provided.

Wrong size advised

I recently ordered a dog’s life jacket through a rewards scheme. I ordered it using the dog weight guidelines to choose the correct size. When the jacket arrived, it was packaged folded up with tags attached in a way that meant they had to be removed to try it on the dog. Unfortunately, the dog’s shape meant the life jacket didn’t fit. I contacted the rewards scheme to ask for a larger size. It responded that it would be unable to refund me if the jacket wasn’t in the original packaging with the tags attached. When I look at other sites selling this product, they usually list the circumference measurements to help you choose the right size. This scheme’s site only lists the weight range. I ordered the jacket according to the guidelines on the site. Can you advise me of my rights please? SUSAN ANGUS

WE SAY: Because you ordered the jacket by reference to weight guidelines on the site you would have expected it to fit your dog. Not being able to select a girth measurement has led to you getting the incorrect size. Consequently, the jacket isn’t fit for purpose and you should be given a replacement under the Consumer Guarantees Act. The fact the tags have been removed is irrelevant. How else would you know if it fitted? We recommend you ask the rewards scheme to reconsider its response.

CGA obligations for faulty TV

We purchased a 55-inch high-end TV from an appliance shop in 2016. It has developed a fault, which I believe is with the backlighting. It has four large bright spots arranged vertically in the centre of the screen. Any action on the screen that passes over these fixed spots changes colour due to the bright backlight. We have called the retailer’s 0800 number and received what we believe is advice contrary to the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). First, it says the television is “out of warranty”, which I reject as a television should last longer than two years. Second, it says we should deal with the manufacturer, not the retailer. Then it says it will charge us if we decide to take the TV back to the store for repair. Can the retailer charge us to fix a fault like this? I find it disappointing the retailer doesn’t know its obligations under the CGA and is trying to fob us off to the manufacturer. MARTIN DRABBLE

WE SAY: A top-of-the-line television should not be faulty after less than two years. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, the retailer has to put things right by arranging to inspect the television and then making sure any faults are remedied. We suggest you point this out to the retailer and ask it to arrange an inspection.

UPDATE: The television has been replaced.

Travel insurance & cancellation costs

We recently travelled around New Zealand and took out cancellation insurance through our travel agent. We thought it covered flight interruption, with reimbursement of airfares to get home, plus additional costs of cancellation. We got caught in Cyclone Gita in Christchurch and couldn’t catch the TranzAlpine to Greymouth (which was cancelled) on to Westport and Nelson where we would have caught our flight to Auckland. We had to buy new tickets in Christchurch to get home. The insurance company has rejected our claim for $890 extra costs. I must admit wading through its 61-page booklet is an interesting exercise. Our travel agent recommended this policy as New Zealand-based insurance coverage, which we were given the impression covered additional costs of cancellation, not just reimbursement of airfares. We will probably do more trips around New Zealand. Are you aware of any insurance companies which have a New Zealand policy for New Zealand citizens that covers full reimbursement of additional costs arising from cancellations – such as accommodation and rental car costs? KEM PRICE

Olivia Wannan, Consumer investigative writer, says: It’s disappointing your travel agent didn’t properly explain the policy only covered the costs of cancelling your travel (if you needed to) before you departed. This is what is meant in the travel insurance industry by “Cancellation Insurance”. Once you’ve started your holiday, the cost of replacement transport due to bad weather or other issues tends to be called something like “Additional Expenses” by insurers. You will have to double-check these expenses are included – or ask the travel agent if the insurance covers you for things that happen before you set off and while you’re away. There are travel insurance companies, such as 1Cover and Cover-More, which offer domestic travel insurance that covers additional costs. We recommend comparing prices and policies before you book.

GST in quotes

Is it illegal to give a quote without GST? I have received two quotes for replacing windows – one is GST included and the other GST excluded. Fortunately, I noticed this as both appear similar – but not when I add GST to the one without it. What would have happened if I had accepted this quote and then was billed the 15 percent GST? MOIRA STYLES

Maggie Edwards, Consumer adviser, says: If you are given a quote but not told it’s exclusive of GST then this is misleading and may breach the Fair Trading Act (FTA). In this case, you would assume the quote is inclusive of GST and you should not have to pay the extra 15 percent. We suggest you make a complaint to the Commerce Commission. It is responsible for enforcing the FTA.