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Letters from November 2015


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Whiffy coat

A week ago, I bought a duck down coat. After 15 minutes of wear, the coat stunk like a duck. I returned to the store and the manager could smell it also. But he said it was not a manufacturing failure and I had no rights to a refund. He said the store’s policy is only an exchange for up to six months. However, I could not find another item I needed. Now I still have the coat and can’t wear it. Is that the law? JOACHIM BRAEUNING

If the manager acknowledged the jacket smells, and it shouldn’t, then the Consumer Guarantees Act applies. The Act requires goods, including down jackets, to be of acceptable quality. As you have only had the jacket for a short time, the store should resolve the issue. If all its jackets identical to yours smell, so you can’t swap it, then you have the right to a cash refund. You don’t have to accept store credit. We suggest returning to the store and advising the manager of your rights under the Act.

UPDATE: Joachim went back to the store with our advice and got a refund.

Trial run

We are looking at purchasing a coffee table from a home goods store. We asked if we could have it on approval to see what it looked like in our home, but the store declined. It said if we purchase it and then find it doesn’t suit us, we can bring it back and have a credit with the store to the table’s value. Can we not demand our money back? BRUCE ROBERTSON

Unfortunately, no. If you simply change your mind, then all you can do is tell the store and politely ask for your money back. It’s under no obligation to refund you, but some will to promote good relations with customers. You can return a product and seek a remedy only if it fails to live up to the guarantees in the Consumer Guarantees Act.

One in the eye

I needed new lenses in my glasses and was told the cost would be $374. But when the store called to tell me the glasses were ready, it said it had made a mistake in the price. The cost would now be $100 more than quoted. Do I have to pay this new price? I would really appreciate knowing where I stand in the matter. HELEN LEIGH

You don’t have to pay more than the amount you were quoted for the new lenses. A quote is an offer to do a job for a certain price. If a quote is accepted, the work must be done for that price, unless the parties agree to change it. In this case, you agreed to the lenses being fitted at a cost of $374. When you pick up your glasses, you only need to pay this amount.

UPDATE: Helen paid the original price of $374 and explained to the store it couldn’t change the price quoted.

KiwiSaver safe?

What happens to KiwiSaver funds managed by a bank that gets into trouble and becomes subject to the Reserve Bank’s Open Bank Resolution policy (OBR)? It is clear that if the KiwiSaver fund has assets in the bank, these would be as subject to OBR as those of other depositors. However, the situation with respect to the rest of the KiwiSaver scheme assets isn’t clear to me. DAVID MIDDLETON

The OBR policy is meant to keep a bank open in the event it gets into financial difficulties. Under the policy, a portion of depositors’ funds can be frozen to shore up the troubled bank until it’s back on its feet.

Investments in a bank-owned KiwiSaver scheme aren’t directly affected by the OBR policy because they’re not technically deposits with a bank. Therefore, the money can’t be used to prop up the struggling bank’s balance sheet.

However, if the scheme invests in the bank’s cash accounts and other deposit products the OBR policy would apply and a portion of this cash could be frozen. This would be the same if any KiwiSaver scheme had funds invested with the troubled bank.

The OBR regulations won’t affect KiwiSaver money not held in bank deposits. These investments would continue to be accessible.

Some types of KiwiSaver funds have a larger exposure to the OBR’s application – typically cash, defensive and conservative funds invest greater proportions with banks. That said, most KiwiSaver schemes spread bank investments across several banks to reduce risk (known as “diversification”).

Shark attack

If a product has been recalled should the retailer contact the consumer? The only place I read about the Shark Navigator recall was your magazine. I took my vacuum back to the store where I bought it and the salesman said he hadn’t heard of such a recall, so I brought it home again. ALI MCKEEMAN

When products are recalled because they’re unsafe, the company must report the recall to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The ministry is responsible for publishing the recall notice on its website.

Companies also have a duty to publicise the recall. There’s no prescribed process for this but it normally includes placing recall notices in newspapers and stores. Where retailers can access customer databases to identify purchasers of the product, we would expect them to do this too and contact the customers.

We suggest you go back to the store where you bought the vacuum. It may be easier if you show a copy of the recall notice from our website. The store may offer you a repair for the fault. However, in this case the product presents a safety risk and the Consumer Guarantees Act gives you the right to refuse a repair and request a refund or replacement instead.

Recalls have been issued this year for the following Shark products:

  • All Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional (model number NV356NZ) vacuums.
  • Shark Navigator Lift-Away (model number NV350NZ) vacuums manufactured before 18 October 2014 with production codes 4811A to 4114A.
  • Shark Rocket Ultra-Light (model number HV300NZ) vacuums manufactured from 16 January 2014 to 15 November 2014 with production codes 0314A to 4614A.