Out to dry

I purchased a dehumidifier three years ago. About a year after purchase, the machine turned on but after a short period an alarm went off and the machine gave up the ghost. I should have done something about it then but couldn’t find the proof of purchase or warranty. About that time I had a heat pump installed and forgot about the dehumidifier until recently when I came across the owner’s operating instructions and warranty. The warranty was for two years – alas my machine was three years old. My gripe is the dehumidifier was not cheap (about $400) and it just didn’t last. I had only used it about 20-30 times, which equates to about $16 per use. Where do I stand on this? GRAHAM WHEELER

Even though the warranty has expired, you may have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act. We suggest you return to the store where you purchased the dehumidifier with proof of purchase. If you don’t have the receipt, a copy of your credit card or bank account statement can be used to provide the store with a record of when the product was bought. The Act obliges retailers to guarantee their products are of “acceptable quality”. This means they must last for a reasonable time, given the price paid and any claims made for their performance. We estimate a dehumidifier should last 10 years. If the problem is minor, the retailer can choose to repair the dehumidifier, replace it or provide a refund. If the problem is major, the choice of refund or replacement is yours.

UPDATE: Graham returned the dehumidifier and the store offered him a new one.

Left cold

I have been waiting three months for a woodburner to be installed. The installation has been delayed a number of times for various reasons – a vital part (the metal hearth) not being powder coated in time, the lack of installers to do the job, the installer turning up without a colleague (thinking it was a one-man job even though the woodburner weighs 140kg). The latest delay was caused because there was insufficient flue ordered, the heat protecting wall screens were the incorrect size and the hearth’s powder coating was faulty and damaged. These parts are supposedly being remade but I still have no installation date. Because I had to pay the remainder of the cost before the company would deliver the woodburner, I now seem to have no choice but to wait. I have emailed or telephoned once a week for the past eight weeks or so. I claim customer service has been poor, that I have been made to wait far too long for a completed service, and the initial site inspection was poor resulting in several items delivered being not fit for purpose. A MEMBER

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, service providers must guarantee their services will be performed with reasonable care and skill, and be completed within a reasonable time. In this case, we don’t think the guarantees have been met and you’re entitled to cancel the installation and request a refund. If you wish to continue with the installation, we recommend you ask the company to complete the work by a specified date. If it’s not completed by then, you can cancel the contract, request a refund for any unfinished work and get someone else to finish the job.

Washing up

In September 2011, we purchased a top-loading washing machine. It has served us A-OK until recently when it ceased working. We approached the retailer who insisted it could not do anything and suggested we contact the manufacturer direct. We rang the manufacturer and a delightful young man had a look at the machine and quickly ascertained the fault was a motherboard, which he duly replaced. He then asked for a cheque or credit card payment on the spot. I explained the machine was less than four years old and we were covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. He did not seem to know anything about this Act and insisted he would have to remove the motherboard if we did not pay. We discussed the situation and he suggested if we did not pay then he would lose out on his travel and time costs. We should have shown him the door but he was a real pleasant guy. So we paid him $120 for his labour and expenses but NOT the $258 charge for the part he installed. To date, the manufacturer has not been in touch for the motherboard cost. Would you agree there should have been no cost to us and we should take action against the manufacturer for a refund of the $120? A MEMBER

We wouldn’t expect a washing machine’s motherboard to fail less than four years after purchase given normal use. The Consumer Guarantees Act gives you the right to claim damages from the manufacturer to compensate you for the repairer’s $120 service charge. However, you can also choose to claim costs from the retailer. When a product isn’t of acceptable quality, you can insist the retailer provides a remedy. Where it fails to do so, you can have the fault remedied elsewhere and claim the costs from the store. The store got it wrong when it told you it couldn’t help and that you had to contact the manufacturer.

UPDATE: The member received an apology, a cheque for $120 and some free laundry powder from the manufacturer.

Condensation conversation

I have an inquiry about double glazed windows we recently had installed, this being our first winter with them. Is it normal for the windows to have condensation on them in the mornings on the outside panes? They do not all have condensation on them. Our glass units are “Low-E” clear glass. The glazing has been fitted into new timber joinery and is made up of the configuration of 6-12-6mm gap filled with argon gas. We live in Auckland. We did not expect condensation on the outside of our new windows and it would be very helpful if you could clarify why this is the case. A MEMBER

Condensation on the outside of the window indicates it’s performing exactly as designed. Condensation is more likely to form when the outside window surface is cooler. Your double glazing is preventing the heat in your home from escaping, which means the outside of the windows are cooler than they would be without double glazing. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about condensation on the outside of windows – it’s the price you pay for having panes with great insulation. An absence of condensation on the outside of the windows doesn’t mean they’ve stopped working properly. It’s most likely to form on cloud-free nights when there is little or no wind, and usually when a warm front follows a dry spell, as this is when the dew point is higher. If there’s condensation on the internal surfaces of your glass panes, where the argon gas is meant to be trapped, then there’s cause for concern. This indicates the gas cavity is no longer sealed. This cannot be reversed and the pane would need to be replaced.

Blanket dilemma

I have an electric blanket, which I have had for many years – possibly since about 1993. It is used on a spare bed, and only turned on when I have visitors in the colder months, which doesn't often happen. It appears to be in excellent condition, and passed the electrical safety test last year. I see Consumer recommends replacing electric blankets every five years, which becomes a very expensive exercise, and I am wondering whether this can be justified when an electric blanket is properly cared for, used very infrequently, and passes electrical safety checks. A MEMBER

You raise a good point. A number of fires are caused by electric blankets each year. The usual culprits are old models. We therefore recommend replacing blankets every five years. Older blankets are also less likely to have a safety cut-off to prevent the blanket overheating. But if you’ve had your blanket tested it’s probably OK. As well as having your blanket tested by an electrician, there are other precautions like making sure it’s turned off before you get into bed, not placing heavy objects or piles of clothing on the bed while the blanket’s on, ensuring the cord isn’t twisted and the controller isn’t wedged between the mattress and base, ensuring the blanket is secured and flat on the bed, and rolling – not folding – the blanket for storage. You can find out more here.