A schoolboy who bought a second-hand phone that turned out to be a dud has won a refund after taking his fight to the Disputes Tribunal.
James de Hair, 15, spotted the iPhone XS Max on Facebook Marketplace and haggled the seller down from $800 to $750 - a bargain for a phone that normally retailed at $2349.
The Kaipara College student said he asked all the right questions including whether the phone had its original battery and whether his SIM card would be compatible.
"The seller assured me it was all good, and the phone was advertised as being in perfect condition," he said.
But three months after he bought it the phone stopped getting a cellular signal.
An authorised Apple repair centre told him they couldn't fix it because the SIM card tray didn't match the serial number of the phone. Another repair shop told him the phone was rusty and had major water damage and the battery had been replaced.
After the seller refused to give James a full refund, his aunt told him to take his fight to the Disputes Tribunal.
"I wasn't going to get my money back any other way," James said. "I thought, let's take him to the tribunal – what's the worst that can happen? It's only 45 bucks to file it."
At the hearing James wore his school uniform and read out his evidence. The seller claimed the phone had never been tampered with but the tribunal referee decided there was clearly misrepresentation.
The pair reached a settlement - James got a full refund and had to give the phone back.
He's since bought another phone off Facebook Marketplace and says he knows what to do now if he gets ripped off.
And he reckons he could have a future in law.
"It would be a pretty cool thing to be able to look back and say I won my first case at 15."
Consumer NZ head of content Caitlin Cherry said there were laws to protect buyers of second-hand goods if their purchase wasn't what the seller promised.
"Taking your claim to the Disputes Tribunal like James did is an affordable, quick and informal way to get your case resolved," Cherry said.
"The Disputes Tribunal is in place to help the public navigate the legal system without going to court.
"There are no lawyers, and your case isn't presided over by a judge, but a referee who's trained in dispute resolution. They encourage the two parties to reach an agreement before giving a binding decision."
James' advice for going to the Disputes Tribunal:
- Collect all the evidence - like photos and messages - to confirm your claim
• Check you have a strong case
• Know the law and your rights
• File your dispute - it usually takes six weeks before a hearing date
• Fees range from $45 - $180 depending on the size of your claim - the limit is $30,000
• Show up and present your evidence. The tribunal's ruling is final and must be followed.