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Mobile Electronic Services fined

Mobile Electronic Services fined for misleading consumers

A Christchurch based electrical appliance repairer has pleaded guilty to breaching the Fair Trading Act.

Andrew Marks, trading as Mobile Electronic Servicing has been fined $4,500 with costs of $650 in the Christchurch District Court for making misleading claims in the Yellow Pages, for misleading a customer about her rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act and for misleading another customer about whether a video recorder needed replacement.

Mr Marks' advertisement in the Yellow Pages gave the impression that he was a qualified technician who carried out full repairs. In his sentencing comments Judge Kellar noted that the Yellow Pages were used widely by the public and it was important that consumers could rely on statements made in this advertising medium.

However, the Commission's investigation found that Mr Marks did not have any formal qualifications and that he contracted the majority of repairs to another appliance repair service, only carrying out minor repairs himself. The Yellow Pages advertisement also implied that Mobile Electronic Services had the endorsement of major electronic brands. The Commission's investigation found that neither Mobile Electronic Services, nor the contracted repairer, was an approved service agent for some of the brands advertised.

"It is important that claims made about being approved service agents are accurate, as repairs carried out by unauthorised service agents can void warrantees," said Adrian Sparrow, the Commerce Commission's Director of Fair Trading. "Tradespeople must ensure that the information they provide about qualifications and endorsements are accurate."

The Commission's investigation found that Mr Marks had told an elderly customer that her video player was not worth repairing, even though it was less than two years old, and sold her a second-hand video player as a replacement. It was later found that the video player, deemed beyond repair by Mr Marks, simply needed tuning and a new aerial cable.

In a similar case, Mr Marks told another elderly customer that her television was not worth repairing and sold her a second hand television. When the customer told Mr Marks that the television sold by him was not working properly, she was told that as the television was second-hand she was not entitled to a refund.

Mr Sparrow said, "It is important that consumers are aware that their rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act apply to second hand goods as well as those bought new, and anyone who misleads consumers about their rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act risks also breaching the Fair Trading Act." Consumers should also be aware that if an appliance needs repairs when it is relatively new, then they should return it to the original retailer.

"Consumers rely on recommendations by tradespeople to make informed decisions about whether they need to replace appliances and about the necessity and cost of electrical repairs. It is vital that tradespeople supply accurate information in relation to the need for replacements and for the cost of repairs," said Mr Sparrow.


The Fair Trading Act

Section 11 Misleading conduct in relation to services:
No person shall, in trade, engage in conduct that is liable to mislead the public as to the nature, characteristics, suitability for a purpose or quantity of services

Sections 13 False or misleading representations:
No person shall, in trade, in connection with the supply or possible supply of goods or services or with the promotion by any means of the supply or use of goods or services,
(e) make a false or misleading representation that goods or services have any sponsorship, approval, endorsement, performance characteristics, accessories, uses, or benefits; or
(f) make a false or misleading representation that a person has any sponsorship, approval, endorsement, or affiliation; or
(h) Make a false or misleading representation concerning the need for any goods or services; or
(i) Make a false or misleading representation concerning the existence, exclusion, or effect of any condition, warranty, guarantee, right, or remedy.

Mobile Electronic Services is the second Christchurch appliance repairer to be convicted of breaching the Fair Trading Act in the past two years.

In May 2006, Brian Soper and his company Brian Soper Appliances Limited, trading as Noel's Appliance World pleaded guilty to breaching sections (d) and (f) of the Fair Trading Act and were fined $20,000 by the Christchurch District Court. Employees working for Noel's Appliance World were instructed to lie about the age of second hand appliances and recommend unnecessary repairs.

Court penalties for breaching the Fair Trading Act can include fines of up to $200,000 for a company and $60,000 for an individual. Only the courts can decide if a representation has breached the Act.


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