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Fisher & Paykel's excuse doesn't wash

A consumer who took Fisher & Paykel to the Disputes Tribunal has won a $517 refund for her faulty washing machine after the company claimed she wasn’t entitled to her money back.

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Emma King bought a Haier-brand washing machine from Fisher & Paykel in 2014 with a loan provided by the Ministry of Social Development. About 17 months later, the machine stopped working and couldn’t be repaired.

Unhappy with the quality of product, Emma requested a refund from the company. But Fisher & Paykel refused and said it would only provide a replacement machine. A company rep suggested she could sell the replacement and use the money to buy another machine if she didn’t like what was offered, Emma says.

Unable to resolve the matter with the company, Emma filed a Disputes Tribunal claim for a $517 refund plus $100 for reimbursement of laundromat costs incurred during the three months she was without a machine.

After notice of the hearing date was issued, Fisher & Paykel sent Emma a $100 cheque as a “gesture of goodwill” but declined to refund her the purchase price. The company said it would only pay the refund to the ministry, even though Emma was the purchaser and had already repaid the loan.

The tribunal referee found in Emma’s favour stating “17 months is an unreasonably short period of time for a domestic washing machine to last in the hands of a consumer and then require replacement. I have no hesitation in finding that there has been a failure of substantial character … provid[ing] the consumer with the right to reject the goods”.

The referee ordered Fisher & Paykel, which didn’t attend the hearing, to refund Emma. The referee also found Emma was legally entitled to be reimbursed $100 for laundromat costs. While the company had provided the payment as a “gesture of goodwill”, the referee said it was obliged under the Consumer Guarantees Act to compensate Emma for her costs.

In a statement to Consumer, Fisher & Paykel spokesman Matt Orr says the company “apologises sincerely to Emma that her issue was not dealt with in a much more timely and appropriate manner. We take full responsibility for the miscommunications that have occurred in this case”.

The company says it’s also given the ministry an assurance no other customers will suffer a similar experience.

Legal points

The Consumer Guarantees Act requires a good to be of acceptable quality. If a product fails this test and the failure is substantial, you’re entitled to reject it and claim a refund or replacement from the supplier. The Act also gives you the right to claim consequential losses arising directly from the product’s failure.

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