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Letters from November 2014

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Not according to plan

I signed up with an architect to develop a concept design for the house I am planning to build. We agreed the fee would be a maximum of $10,000 and I would be charged hourly every month. However, after rejecting three designs in the past one and a half months, I am not comfortable working with the architect. He does not come across as competent and informed. Now he has sent me an invoice for August claiming almost $9500. Am I bound to pay? SOMASHEKAR NARAYAN

Take another look at the contract you signed with the architect. It should contain a formal disputes resolution process. You also have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act, which states services must be carried out with reasonable care and skill. If you’re unable to resolve the problem through the contract’s disputes resolution process, you can take a case to the Disputes Tribunal.

On the move

We are moving to a new house, which is only four years old. Are the oven and the whiteware in the house covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act when the ownership is transferred? PAUL SCHOFIELD

The Consumer Guarantees Act still applies if you’re the second owner of the goods. The Act gives you the right to make a claim against the manufacturer or importer if the goods aren’t of acceptable quality. Ask the original owner for the appliances’ receipts.

Top shelf actually bottom drawer

I bought a “Vintage Rimu” office desk through Trade Me for $1195. The seller who has been trading since 2009 stated the item had been professionally restored. At first glance, the desk looks beautiful. It wasn't until we wanted to move it into the office a few days later that something didn't seem right. A drawer has particle boards, the top of the desk is made from custom wood, one of the slim drawers is made of plywood and the bottom is new soft pine. The front and sides of the desk have been fitted with new rimu veneer. That doesn't leave much of the original vintage desk! We were also under the impression an old “rimu” desk would be made of solid rimu. We complained and the seller says he will buy the desk back from us. Should he also refund the freight charges? FRED VAN KLEEF

The seller risks misleading consumers by describing the desk as “Vintage Rimu” when it has been so extensively restored. That’s an offence under the Fair Trading Act. In addition, the Consumer Guarantees Act specifies goods must match the description given. Under this Act, you can claim for any reasonably foreseeable loss resulting from a seller’s failure to supply goods as described. We believe the freight charge is a foreseeable loss, which the seller should cover.

Thanks for caring

In February 2012, I purchased a new mobile phone from a large retailer. The salesperson recommended I buy the manufacturer’s care plan for an additional cost. This plan extended the phone’s support and warranty period to a total of two years, and I was told it included a free battery. In March, the phone abruptly died. I had considerable difficulty getting through on the manufacturer’s help line. All record of me having the two-year plan had gone from the system and I was repeatedly told my phone was outside of standard warranty. Eventually, I spoke with a technician. He said the cause of the failure was most likely a software issue and a reboot of the phone should solve the problem. Since then, my phone has periodically repeated the abrupt power-off. What are my rights? ALLAN GRANT

You’re covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. You don’t have to rely on the manufacturer’s warranty. As well, you don’t have to waste time on the manufacturer’s help line. You can return the faulty phone to the retailer. If the fault is minor, the retailer has to repair the phone, replace it or give you a refund. If the power-failure can’t be fixed, we think that’s a major fault – and you’re entitled to choose a replacement or a full refund.

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