After a string of customer complaints about Freedom Furniture, Consumer NZ is advising shoppers not to put up with lengthy wait times, poor communication and broken promises.
Auckland-based customer Debra describes her dealings with Freedom as “hands down the worst retail experience of my life”.
In February, Debra ordered her furniture online, spending more than $2800 plus a $450 delivery fee.
By 11 March, she received a Covid delay notification and was told it would be delivered on 5 April. Debra lives and works in Auckland but has a house in Ōhope, Bay of Plenty, where the furniture was to be delivered.
Despite assurances, Freedom failed to deliver on 5 April –and on four subsequent dates, too. By the end of April, Debra had clocked up 2100km and four days off work waiting for her furniture to be delivered.
Throughout the frustrating month, Debra made multiple calls to Freedom and unsuccessful refund requests. Eventually, the long-awaited furniture was delivered.
Consumer NZ Chief Executive Jon Duffy expects retailers to be transparent.
“If an item is going to take a long time to be delivered, tell the customer. If unexpected delays occur, let the customer know,” Duffy said.
“Delays happen and that's understandable, especially in the current Covid climate, but we are calling for retailers to be upfront and communicate with their customers, so they can make fully informed decisions.”
Fed-up mother Leigh contacted Consumer after her daughter Sophia’s recent ordeal. On 6 March, Sophia ordered a bedhead from Freedom Furniture’s website, paying $449 for the bedhead plus $65 for delivery – a total of $514.
It was estimated to be delivered between 16 and 30 March but by mid-April, there was no delivery or communication from Freedom. Freedom took 20 days to respond to Sophia’s request for an update, and by the end of May the item still hadn’t been delivered.
Sophia repeatedly requested a refund, and each request was ignored. Following a visit to the store manager in Mangere, Auckland the refund was eventually processed at the end of June.
A quick look at Freedom’s social pages highlights the sheer volume of unhappy customers. Most comments on Freedom’s Facebook pages are from desperate customers trying to get in contact with anyone who can help them.
“When a business indicates it will deliver items within a specified timeframe, the Consumer Guarantees Act requires it to honour that guarantee,” Duffy said.
“Freedom could be liable to customers for any extra expenses they incur as a result of delivery delays.
“Customers also have the right to reject the goods where delivery times are significantly longer than those provided at the point of sale.
“Freedom Furniture also risks misleading people by representing items will be delivered within certain frames and regularly failing to meet these,” he said.
“This could breach the Fair Trading Act and may be of interest to the Commerce Commission.”
Freedom responded to Consumer’s request for comment, stating shipping disruptions and manufacturing bottlenecks were to blame for the hold-ups.
“That may be true, and people will understand trading at the moment is a challenge. But this is nothing new – the real issue here is that Freedom needs to be more upfront with customers at the point of sale about the true nature of the delays they are likely to face, especially when they appear to be so widespread.”