Your questions: waterlogged iPhone, faulty e-bike battery

This month's questions involve a water-damaged iPhone XS Max, meal kit credit and toll-free charges.

Man contacting advice line with a consumer question.

Each month, our experts answer members' questions. If you're a paying Consumer member and have a consumer issue, you can contact our advice line for help.

“Dent in side”?

Slow cooker with glass lid.

I purchased a slow cooker in an online auction. When it was delivered, it had a large dent. The ad mentioned there was a “dent in side” but it wasn’t clear if it referred to the cooker or the box. Before the auction expired, I asked the retailer: “Is the box damaged or the unit itself?” I was told it was just the box, so I went ahead and purchased. I paid $175 for the damaged unit, including freight. I could have bought an undamaged unit from another company for $195. The retailer didn’t know who gave me the wrong answer and apologised but said I’m equally responsible for the error. While the store will refund me, I’m expected to freight back the unit at my cost. I don’t believe I should have to do this. Am I correct?
A MEMBER

WE SAY: You’re absolutely correct. The retailer saying you’re equally responsible for the error is absurd – you asked a question to clarify an ambiguous description and were given the wrong answer. The store must take responsibility for this. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, you’re entitled to ask the retailer to pay the freight costs, as these are a reasonably foreseeable cost resulting from the good’s failure to match its advertised description.

Air fryer “out of warranty”

In 2018, I bought a $399 air fryer oven online. Less than a year later, the built-in interior light began to fail intermittently and eventually completely. You need to be able to see to fit the racks inside the oven – it’s really fiddly. I contacted the company and was told the oven was out of warranty. I quoted the Consumer Guarantees Act but the company said it wasn’t obliged to do anything (although it could offer a good discount on a new one!). What’s my best course of action?
A MEMBER

WE SAY: The retailer is wrong if it thinks its customer obligations end as soon as the warranty expires. A $399 air fryer should last longer than a year before needing repair. The Consumer Guarantees Act requires goods to be durable and fit for purpose, which doesn’t appear to be the case with this fryer. As you’ve already quoted the act, we’d advise telling the company that if a satisfactory remedy isn’t provided, you’ll be taking the matter to the Disputes Tribunal.

Waterlogged iPhone

Hand holding up pink iPhone XS Max.

I bought an iPhone XS Max from a telco and was informed it could go two metres deep in water for up to 30 minutes. This claim was supported by various websites. My phone dropped momentarily into water only 200mm deep and is now malfunctioning. It’s still under warranty but the retailer has said it doesn’t cover liquid damage. Neither the retailer nor the manufacturer will take responsibility for my broken phone. Do you have any advice for me?
A MEMBER

WE SAY: The retailer and manufacturer are entitled to exclude water damage from their warranties but they can’t exclude the Consumer Guarantees Act. The act states goods have to be fit for purpose and comply with their description (in this case that the phone is waterproof under certain conditions). Point this out to the telco and if you don’t have any luck, take your complaint to Telecommunication Dispute Resolution scheme – tdr.org.nz.

Meal kit credit

We use a meal kit home delivery service but have had numerous issues, the latest being a pack of chicken that wasn’t usable after not being vacuum sealed properly. On each occasion the service has given us a credit but I’m wondering about the legality of this as we have to purchase from it again to get the credit applied, whereas we’ve already paid for the faulty foodstuff.
SHARAN McNAUGHTON

WE SAY: While the service can offer you a credit, you’re under no obligation to accept it and are entitled to request a cash refund for your inedible edibles. The Consumer Guarantees Act requires sellers of faulty goods to put things right by repairing the item, replacing it or providing a refund. In your case, a refund is really the only suitable fix.

UPDATE: Sharan requested and received a refund.

Barney over door

Red barn door.

In August last year, I purchased a barn door. The quote mentioned the retailer didn’t warrant against “warp, bow, cracks or twist”. Thirteen weeks later we received the door. Upon inspection it seemed OK, but once it was hung (using hardware purchased separately), we realised the door wasn’t entirely straight and wouldn’t sit flush against the wall. I contacted the retailer and sent pictures. It suggested we repair the door (it would supply parts). I declined and requested a refund. The retailer agreed and initially confirmed it would cover the costs of returning the faulty door. Now the retailer is saying the freight costs (at least $360) are not its responsibility and we should have checked the door on arrival. Can you please advise?
SHARMA MASINA

WE SAY: The retailer needs to foot the bill for this one. When you reject goods because they’re not of acceptable quality, the Consumer Guarantees Act says you should return them to the retailer but that doesn’t apply when the item’s size means you’ll incur significant costs in doing so. In this case, it’s up to the seller to collect the goods at its expense. It should arrange and pay for the door to be shipped back to its premises. Even if the door had been checked on arrival and found to be faulty, the seller would still have to wear the shipping cost. The fact the door has holes due to hardware being attached makes no difference to the seller’s liability.

Faulty e-bike battery

In 2017, I bought an electric bike for $2500. I’ve had the bike serviced regularly. Early last year I began to have problems getting the bike started. I mentioned this to the store when I took the bike in for a seat adjustment and it checked the battery, which seemed to be OK. However, over the past three or four months the problem got worse to the point where it took me eight attempts to get the bike started. It was due another service, so I took it into the store and was told there was a problem with the chemicals inside the battery and it couldn’t be repaired. The battery is outside its two-year warranty, so the store offered me a replacement battery with a 25% discount, which I refused. To me, a malfunctioning e-bike battery that’s less than two years old, has been well looked after and done less than 2000km isn’t fit for purpose. I’m disappointed with the retailer’s response – what do you think?
A MEMBER

WE SAY: As long as it’s been charged properly, it’s reasonable to expect an e-bike battery from a branded bike to last well over two years and 2000km. Even though the warranty has expired, the Consumer Guarantees Act still applies. Because you’ve looked after the battery – charging it properly and getting the bike serviced regularly – and the problem can’t be fixed, you have the right to reject it. You don’t need to haggle for a replacement battery. Ask the retailer for a replacement of the same type at no cost to you.

Which Sony TV for video streaming?

I’m looking to purchase a new TV. We’re cancelling Sky to help pay for this. We’ve got it down to two Sony HD Smart TVs, a 32-inch or a 43-inch model. Our priority viewing will be Netflix and Disney+. While the smaller Sony is more affordable, do you think it’s worth paying extra to get the bigger screen? What else do I have to pay to get access to Disney+? Someone mentioned Chromecast. How do I load this?
A MEMBER

Hadyn Green, Consumer senior technology writer says: Good idea ditching Sky and picking up streaming services instead! As the TVs are both full HD (also called 1080p), you won’t get an increase in picture quality by going for the bigger option, only a larger screen size. However, the bigger screen’s useful for things such as on-screen graphics, if you were to use them. According to the Disney+ website, the service isn’t available on those Sony TVs, so you’ll need an extra device to watch it. A Chromecast is a good option because it can run a few different services including Netflix and you can also do extras, such as cast videos or photos from your phone. You’ll only need a basic Chromecast (not an Ultra, which is 4K). It plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and needs power too. You set it up via your phone and home WiFi, and it should be simple to use after that. A fibre connection will deliver the best quality for your streaming services.

Retirement village insulation

I live in a retirement village, run by a trust, with a licence to lease my unit. The units were built some 20 years ago and the insulation is, in my view and that of the other residents, woefully inadequate. The trust argues it’s not a landlord, so the new legislation to bring home insulation up to standard doesn’t apply to it. If I want better insulation, I have to pay for it myself. I believe that, because I don’t own the house, it’s the trust’s responsibility as owners. It has the benefits of structural improvements: I can’t take them with me when I move out and the trust, not I, has the right to sell the unit when it becomes vacant. I would be grateful to hear from you whether the new legislation applies and if not, why not. It seems very unfair to me.
RUTH SMITHIES

Maggie Edwards, Consumer adviser says: Although it seems unfair, the Residential Tenancies Act doesn’t apply in this situation. If you resided in a rental property owned by a trust, and paid rent, you’d have rights, but as you live in a retirement village under a licence to occupy, you’re not covered by the act. That said, if you were misled about the condition of the property, you’d have grounds to complain. Your first step in this case would be putting your complaint to the trust that operates the village. The Retirement Villages Act give you the right to complain to the village operator and to receive a response within a reasonable time.

Toll-free charge

I recently purchased a prepay roaming add-on from a telco before travelling to Australia. It was supposed to include 100 minutes of global roaming. However, I was charged $33.97 for a 42-minute call to an Air New Zealand 0800 number during the week I was away. I contacted the telco, which told me service and premium numbers weren’t included in the roaming plan. The website stated: “Prepay roaming does not include premium numbers, satellite calls, in-flight roaming calls, maritime calls and fax/data calls.” Any reasonable person would think an 0800 number isn’t included in this statement. I don’t think the telco has made reasonable disclosure about what is and isn’t included in the roaming plan. Do I have any case to complain over this?
DAVID ROBB

Paul Doocey, Consumer adviser says: The telco is only entitled to charge exorbitant prices for calling 0800 numbers from abroad if it made those charges clear. We can’t find any mention in the terms and conditions of 0800 numbers being excluded. If the telco wanted to exclude 0800 numbers from the roaming plan, it should’ve said so. We don’t think anyone would consider “premium numbers” (normally referring to 0900 numbers) to include 0800 numbers that are usually toll-free. Point this out to your telco again and ask for reimbursement. If it refuses, take your case to the Telecommunication Dispute Resolution scheme – tdr.org.nz.

UPDATE: David contacted the TDR and received a refund from the telco.

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