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Letters from September 2016


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Restocking fee

I bought a screen protector that stated on the packaging it was suitable “for iPhone 6”. When I opened the box, I discovered it was meant for an iPhone Plus and therefore too big for my iPhone 6. When I tried to return it, the retailer said I had to pay a 20 percent restocking fee as the good was not returned in the condition it was sold. I explained this was not right. How was I to know without opening the product that it had been labelled incorrectly? After an argument, I was told the store could swap the screen protector for another one the right size. So a good result in the end, but had I not pushed my point I would have had the restocking fee deducted from any refund. Is a restocking fee legal for a mislabelled good? ELISE SMITH

You were well within your rights to reject paying a restocking fee. Your screen protector did not match the description given on the packaging. The retailer is therefore liable for putting things right. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, goods must match their description. Retailers also risk breaching the Fair Trading Act if they mislead consumers about a product’s characteristics and suitability for purpose.

Unreliable quote

I purchased a woodburner, which the retailer offered to install. I accepted the offer, based on the retailer’s quote for the work. On a final pre-installation site visit, it was determined extra work needed to be done. I agreed to this. However, when I received the final invoice there was an extra charge (not specified on either quote), which I considered incidental and had assumed was incorporated in the first quote. It was an obvious but minor piece of work. My understanding is I agreed to quotes (as stated on the paperwork), not estimates. The increased cost was about 20 percent of the total invoice. Do I need to pay this extra charge? A MEMBER

You were given a quote for the job and that should be what you pay, unless you agree to pay more. In comparison, an estimate is only a best guess at what the job will cost and the tradesperson is not bound by it. When forming the quote for the installation, the retailer should have taken reasonable care and skill to make sure it got the price right. In this case, the quote was wrong and to make you pay the extra for the store’s mistake would be a breach of the Consumer Guarantees Act. We suggest you point this out to the retailer.

As is, where is?

Earlier this year, I bought a car from a licensed car dealer. The car had a note saying it was in good condition. The purchase form we signed stated the sale was on an “as is, where is” basis and that no warranty was provided. Since bringing the car home we have noticed some mechanical faults and it now leaks from a number of places. Do we still have protection under the Consumer Guarantees Act if we wish to complain to the dealer? A MEMBER

From what you have said, you have grounds for a claim under the Consumer Guarantees Act. You bought the car from a licensed motor trader. Traders cannot contract out of their responsibilities under the Act by including “as is, where is” disclaimers in sales agreements. In this case, there was a notice on the vehicle stating it was in good condition, which you have since found it is not. If the dealer refuses to help, you could lodge a case with the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal for $50. UPDATE: The dealer paid for repairs to the car.

In/out meter doubt

I am placing solar panels on my roof. When I signed up with the solar panel supplier, part of the deal was it had to apply to the lines company, which insists on there being an import/export meter. As I have set up the system to be able to use all the energy generated, why have the lines companies been able to insist on the installation of this meter? Is this to ensure they have a record of who has solar energy panels? PETER AICKIN

George Block, Consumer technical writer, says:

If you want to maintain a grid-connection while having solar panels on your roof, your inverter (which converts DC electricity from solar panels to AC for your home) needs to be connected to the electricity network. This is because it needs to synchronise its output voltage with the grid AC voltage.

Any electrical installation able to inject energy back into the network, like your grid-tied solar PV system will when the panels generate more power than you require, needs to comply with the Electricity Industry Participation Code 2010.

This means the system must either be metered by a separate register to measure how much energy you’re injecting at any given time (this is the function of an import/export meter), or not metered but only if: a. the network (lines company) does not require injection metering, and b. the consumer does not want to be paid for injected electricity.

We recommend asking your electricity retailer whether it’s possible to have a grid-connected solar system without the requirement for injection metering, citing Section 15.13 of the code when you do so. It’ll need to run this past the network in your area, which may object on the grounds it needs an import/export meter for either electricity flow calculation or invoicing purposes (for example, Unison in Hawke's Bay recently instituted an extra charge for solar homes).

Egg-stra bright

I have noticed over the past few years the yolks of commercially produced eggs have gotten more and more orange. To my eye, the egg yolks seem unnaturally bright yellow to orange in colour. I’m not sure if producers are adding to the feed to get the yolks more attractive but, if so, would like to know the colour factor additive is natural and not synthetic. PRISCILLA WILSON-McGREGOR Annette Barnes, Consumer research assistant says: The yolk colour is determined by the carotenoid pigments in the hen’s diet. Hens that eat barley, for example, can produce very light-coloured eggs. The carotenoid pigments can be derived from natural sources (e.g. grass, corn) or added into chicken feed. Carotenoid pigments added to feed can be synthetic or natural (such as those derived from paprika). Egg producers use a yolk colour fan, with a scale ranging from one (pale yellow) up to 16 (deep orange) to measure egg yolk colour. Additives in the hen's feed mustn't present a risk to the animal or to food safety. However there's no requirement in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code for the presence of synthetic carotenoids to be noted on an egg package label.