Noel Leeming fined $200k for misleading customers

Sam Hurley, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Friday, 14 December 2018, 4:38PM
Customers had purchased mobile phones, laptops and household appliances when the breaches occurred. (Photo / File)
Customers had purchased mobile phones, laptops and household appliances when the breaches occurred. (Photo / File)

Technology and appliance retailer Noel Leeming has been fined $200,000 for misleading consumers' rights after customer complaints led to an investigation by the Commerce Commission.

The company, owned by The Warehouse Group Limited, earlier pleaded guilty to eight charges under the Fair Trading Act.

Today it was sentenced in the Auckland District Court by Judge Nicola Mathers.

Whangārei baker Adam Henson, 23, was one of several customers who were mislead by Noel Leeming.

He said he purchased a laptop which he was told could play video games.

However, the computer was not up to standard so he returned it.

But the second computer had the same problems and after a third computer wasn't fruitful he was told he could no longer get a refund.

"What I got in return, disruptions, anxiety, stress," he said.

Henson said he was made to feel like the "bad guy" and was inconveniencing Noel Leeming staff.

"I felt robbed," he said.

Countless hours were spent calling the company's head office only to be told "the next person is the one to talk to".

Finally a Noel Leeming staffer told him: "No point in you calling, stop calling. Goodbye."

"I was shocked," Henson said, who spent years paying off his debt to Noel Leeming.

Counsel for the Commerce Commission, Nick Flanagan, told the court Noel Leeming's breaches spread throughout the organisation.

It was also the first case of its kind and the Noel Leeming staff had led a direct and significant departure from the truth, he said.

Flanagan also argued Noel Leeming's breaches were "not simply eight isolated incidents" but something "disseminated through the business".

Michael Heron QC, acting for Noel Leeming, said the large organisation was making efforts to comply.

He said the "misjudgements were unacceptable" and Noel Leeming takes responsibility.

His primary submission, however, was the company should be sentenced solely on the charges before the court.

Judge Mathers said Flanagan's submission the offending was more than just eight examples may have been correct, but added "I do not consider I can speculate".

The Commerce Commission filed the charges in April after an investigation into customer complaints for the right to seek remedies for faulty goods from Noel Leeming and not the manufacturer, the right to a refund for faulty products and the right to a replacement for a faulty product.

Each charge related to a different complainant at several Noel Leeming stores between September 2015 and January 2017.

Customers had purchased or considered purchasing consumer goods such as mobile phones, laptops and household appliances when the breaches occurred.

The Commission said since 2007 it had issued warnings or compliance advice letters to Noel Leeming on three occasions.

After the charges were laid a spokesperson for Noel Leeming said: "We're disappointed by the Commission's enforcement decision, which came without the opportunity to investigate or discuss the complaints.

"We take our compliance responsibilities seriously and we want to do the right thing by our customers."


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