Two Consumer members have won a $6700 refund in the Disputes Tribunal after their new carpet developed large areas of "shading"; a problem that made the carpet look like it had extensive water staining.

Peter Manderson and his partner Catherine bought the flooring from Carpet Court in Papakura. But several months after the carpet was laid, Peter says, patches of shading appeared and the problem got worse.

Shading – also called "permanent pile reversal" – occurs in cut-pile carpets when parts of the pile lie in a different direction from the rest. It isn't a manufacturing defect and doesn’t affect the carpet’s durability. But it’s permanent and can’t be removed by vacuuming or brushing.

Our consumer adviser Maggie Edwards says retailers should warn you before you buy about carpets that may develop shading: "If you're not warned and the problem develops, you have grounds for a claim under the Consumer Guarantees Act. The Act requires goods to be of acceptable quality and that includes being acceptable in appearance."

When Peter and Catherine approached Carpet Court about the shading, the store got manufacturer Feltex to inspect the flooring. Feltex confirmed the shading but said it wasn't a manufacturing defect and the retailer should have warned them of the risk.

The couple then went back to the store and were advised to contact Flooring Brands (which owns the Carpet Court brand). Flooring Brands said that because there was no manufacturing fault with the carpet nothing further could be done. It suggested the couple take the matter to the Disputes Tribunal if they wanted to pursue it.

Flooring Brands also told the couple that a warning about shading was provided on the back of the carpet sample and included in the manufacturer's brochure. However, Peter and Catherine say Carpet Court didn’t show them a warning or give any other information to alert them to the potential problem.

The tribunal referee accepted Peter and Catherine hadn’t been told of the shading risk and found that a reasonable consumer wouldn't regard the carpet's appearance as acceptable. The referee also rejected a statement written on a purported invoice that the carpet was sold as seconds and without a warranty, calling it "a disingenuous post-sale fabrication".

The referee ruled that Peter and Catherine were entitled to reject the carpet and claim a refund of the purchase and installation price plus furniture-removal costs. Carpet Court was ordered to remove the carpet at its expense.

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