Noel Leeming gives customer misleading advice
Disputes Tribunal orders retailer to give customer their money back.
Stephen Moorehead took his broken 14-month-old laptop into Warkworth Noel Leeming, expecting it to be repaired at no cost under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA).
Instead, the salesperson insisted Stephen get it fixed using the damage protection plan he bought with the laptop, misleading Stephen about his consumer rights.
Yet, Stephen had to take Noel Leeming to the Disputes Tribunal to enforce his rights and get his money back.
Stephen vs Noel Leeming
Stephen had opened his laptop one day in January and heard a popping sound. The left hinge and the plastic frame around the screen were cracked.
He took the laptop into Warkworth’s Noel Leeming store, saying he wanted it fixed under the CGA. But after he left the store, he got a call saying he needed to pay $150 (the excess for the damage protection plan) otherwise Noel Leeming wouldn’t look at the laptop.
Stephen ended up paying $150 because he needed the laptop and felt he had no choice. He thought he would sort out any payment once the laptop was fixed.
When he picked up the repaired device, he asked for his $150 back, but Noel Leeming refused, saying the repair wasn’t covered under the CGA.
Stephen contacted our Consumer Advice Line and corresponded with our advisor, Maggie. She confirmed that the device should be covered under the CGA.
Armed with this knowledge, Stephen decided to take the matter to the Disputes Tribunal.
In June this year, he won the case. A representative from Noel Leeming didn’t even turn up.
The tribunal found the fault with the laptop was covered under the CGA, and the advice Noel Leeming staff gave was “erroneous”.
It also noted that nothing in the damage protection plan limits the insured’s rights under the CGA.
The Disputes Tribunal ordered Noel Leeming to pay Stephen back his $150.
You would think that would be the end of it, but it took Noel Leeming over two months to pay up. Stephen got Maggie back on the case to contact Noel Leeming so he could get his money.
Initially, the retailer asked Stephen to come into the Warkworth store to collect the money – 50km from his home – before eventually directly crediting the $150. Noel Leeming also reimbursed Stephen the $45 for the Dispute Tribunal fee and gave him a $300 voucher.
Noel Leeming’s response
A spokesperson for the retailer apologised for the “frustration this has caused the customer.”
It said it never received the Disputes Tribunal notice or ruling but acknowledged that “Mr Moorehead should not have had to go to the Disputes Tribunal to receive his excess refund.”
The retailer also said collecting the excess fee is standard policy and is “refunded to the customers if the fault is covered under the manufacturer’s warranty or CGA.”
We disagree with this approach. All faults should be assessed under the CGA.
During this period, the Warkworth store was closed for relocation, and a “breakdown in communication occurred when this case was handed over to another store.”
In 2018, Noel Leeming was fined $200,000 for misleading consumers about their rights under the CGA.
The prosecution resulted from eight charges for conduct at seven Noel Leeming stores across Aotearoa.
“It was not isolated or ‘one-off’ conduct,” said the Commerce Commission at the time.
Consumers were misled about the right to get faulty goods fixed by the retailer rather than the manufacturer, or the right to a refund or a replacement for a faulty product.
What’s the difference between CGA and damage protection warranties?
Noel Leeming sells damage protection plans as an extension of the manufacturer’s warranty. This means if the manufacturer provides a two-year warranty, the damage protection plan will apply after that period.
It’s important to remember that warranties and damage protection plans are a sales tool.
Consumer NZ’s product test manager, Dr Paul Smith, said the manufacturer “sets the conditions of the warranty … there’s no legal obligation to offer one, but there is an obligation to comply with consumer law”.
Under the CGA, products must be of acceptable quality and fit for purpose. If a product develops a fault before it’s reached the end of its life, it’s up to the retailer to put it right, regardless of whether it’s still under warranty or not.