This will be a longer than usual post as it not only logs the install of a new instant gas hot water system, but the ongoing difficulties I have had with the retailer who sold and arranged installation of the system.
After over 8 months of chasing up the retailer, communicating with different tradesmen and a finance company, and even making an offer to the retailer that I will do preliminary works myself just to get the job done, the retailer has not responded and as a result I am forced to write up this account and use it as a basis for further action with consumer rights advice and representation.
The issues as they stand:
- Installation is unsatisfactory and incomplete
- Unreliable performance of the hot water system
- Extremely poor communication, followup and over all service from the retailer
- Payments being made to a third party finance company (arranged through the retailer) while the above issues remain unresolved
- the bottles are not level
- the unit is powered via an extension lead through a window
- The water pipes are overly exposed and run from a garden tap and drain outlet
- The pipe cover (supplied and visible in its cardboard box) is not fitted
Following is an account of events that have lead to this situation:
- In late July/Early August of 2006 we called an independent plumber to assess a leaking shower rose. He advised that our hot water cylinder was due to be replaced and that instant gas was a good alternative. He suggested that we look into such a system and consider replacing the shower rose in the same job. He recommended the retailer and explained that he also did fire box installations for the retailer. We then talked about heating and the benefits of fire boxes and air conditioners. The plumber was with us for over an hour and advised that if we made an enquiry with the retailer, that he would be able to quote for both the installation of an instant gas hot water system and a fire box.
- In the first week of August 2006 we approached the retailer and explained what the plumber had told us. The retail assistant agreed to prepare a quote for a 26L Paloma gas hot water system and a Logaire Minos fire box including installation based on the advise he would get from the plumber that advised us.
- On 8 August 2006 a quote was presented. We decided to go ahead with the hot water system but not the fire box. Before agreeing I questioned the retail assistant on the installation quotes. For the hot water system there was a a note saying "site uninspected" while the fire box did not have such a note. I asked the retail assistant if he had consulted the original plumber and if it would be him that was doing the work, to which he confirmed that he had. I agreed to go ahead with the quote so long as the installation of the hot water system did not go above the quoted $900, feeling assured that the estimate was based on advise from the plumber, the retailers experience, and my own judgement that there was nothing difficult about this installation. (As you can see from the photos, the installation is straight forward. The house is weatherboard, the gas bottle sit right along side the system, and the existing water lines are directly behind the install site).
- The next day I returned to the retailer and entered into a finance agreement that was being promoted by the retailer. I drew the credited finance to pay for the quote for the hot water system that included the installation and the gas bottles.
- On 8 November I received a letter from the finance company confirming the purchase and that the monthly payments would begin 30 November. I had not heard back from the retailer and nothing had been installed.
- On 23rd November I approached the retailer to question the status of the job. I was told that the plumber had broken his arm and had not been able to do any work. I asked why I was not contacted sooner and if other arrangements had been made. No alternative arrangements or any attempt to contact me had been made in the month and a half since entering into the agreement. I asked to use the retailers telephone to call the finance company and ask that payments not proceed. The finance company assistant explained that a new contract would have to be drawn up to delay the first payment. She expressed concern that the goods had not been installed and asked to speak to the manager of the retail outlet. In the end we agreed that if the retailer could arrange to have the unit installed before 30 November then everything would be OK.
- Sometime in that week another tradesman came to our house, not to install but to measure up and prepare a new quote! He measured up at what must be the furthest possible distance to water outlets in the house. Of course I was concerned by this, considering the original tradesman measured up in a position that was far more efficient and easy to install. But I just put it down to the fact that the retailer was trying to find someone else to do the install and that another tradesmen would be around. No other tradesmen did come around and a few days later I received that tradesman's quote. From my perspective it should have been the retailer that received the quotes because I had already agreed to a figure for install, based on the original quote. This new quote was over 100% more than the original quote and would not include electrical connection! By now I was very concerned as to the progress of the installation, and the integrity of the contract I had with the finance company
- I called the retailer on numerous occasions at this point, each time having to explain the situation to different sales assistants. The original sales assistant that prepared the original quote now no longer worked at the store, and so nobody had the background to my custom. Each time I explained the situation to each of the sales assistants I was told that the manager would have to look into the matter and call me back. If he did call me, he would leave a brief message for me to call him back, which I would do but he was never available. I have never received a call from the manager to date.
- I rejected the new quote and asked one of the sales assistants to arrange for another quote. By now the first installment of finance payments had begun and I was becoming very frustrated by the situation.
- About 2 weeks later I was told by a new sales assistant that the original tradesman I had been speaking to had recovered from his broken arm and would be around to measure and quote the job. This alarmed me even further, as the original agreement that I had with the x-employee to the retailer included an assurance that the original installation quote was based on a consultation with this original tradesman. I wasn't sure why he needed to measure and quote again, but I did not object as I didn't want to obstruct any seeming progress in the situation.
- The original tradesman came around, measured up the original location with assurances that the system did not need to be anywhere else. This reassured me and so I expected that the original quote for installation would remain the same.
- I did not hear back from that tradesman, and after about a week I contacted the retailer to inquire on the status of the job, and to ask that they no longer wait for me to call them, but to keep me in daily updates considering that the payments had begun and I had nothing to show for it. The sales assistant did not know the status of the job and told me that the manager would call back. As usual, this did not happen and I was forced to visit the store again and apply pressure. It just so happened that the manager was in the store when I did visit, and this was the first and only time we were to speak in person. He told me that the original tradesman was too busy catching up on work after his time away, and that another tradesman would have to be sent! I left the store frustrated, but feeling as though progress was happening again.
- The next week I met with a new tradesman, who measured up the original location with assurances that the system did not need to be anywhere else. He explained that he would not be able to install the system before Christmas as it was by now late November. I asked him if he could do the installation at the original figure that was quoted by the store, and he did not think that would be difficult. I asked him to send his quote to the retailer so as to avoid any delays and so that I would only have to communicate with the retailer.
- On 11 January 2007, 4 months after calling the original tradesman regarding a leaking shower rose, 4 months after then entering into a financial contract with a finance company and the retailer, and after a Christmas with friends and relatives from Australia not able to use our shower due to the failing system waiting to be replaced - the third tradesman arrived with a colleague and began installing the system.
- The tradesmen arrived at just after 8am on 11 January. The gas fitter lay down a small prefabricated concrete slab without any attempt to make it level. He removed the water heater from its carton and accidentally dropped it on the path causing significant damage to the face of the unit. He proceeded to mount the unit however, and assured me that he would arrange for a replacement face. I asked him if the drop was likely to have damaged any internal mechanism and he said it would not have. I did not feel assured as the drop had significant impact. The plumber connected a poly pipe line from the garden tap into the system, and another poly pipe from the hot water outlet down to the drain outlets through which he connected to the existing system. The gas delivery arrived with the two bottles and the gas fitter connected the regulator and system to the bottles. He asked me to run an extension lead to the system, at which point I became aware that no electrical connection was going to take place. I queried this and the tradesman explained that he had not quoted the retailer for any electrical work. The plumber replaced the O-rings on the shower rose and tested the system and it worked. By now it was 8:50 am and I needed to go to work. Before I left I took a few minutes to look at the installation - it all happened so quickly that between getting ready for work and helping the tradesmen where I could, I had not had a chance to check the work myself. I queried the plumber about the length of polly pipe and how the cover that was supplied would not be able to fit over the pipes. I was concerned by the amount of exposed poly pipe and the fact that it would likely freeze in the winter. The gas fitter advised me to cash in the supplied cover and have a larger one fabricated.
- At this point I realised that the system that had been installed was a 24L Paloma when I had ordered a 26L. I took this up with the gas fitter who was not surprised as he recalled the confusion at the retailer the day before when he went to pick it up. He said that he would take the damaged 24L system back and replace it all with the correct 26L. I was happy that at least the system was in place and working, and would take up any outstanding issues with the retailer once I was the 26L was in place and I had time to inspect and test the unit.
- About 2 days later the gas fitter returned with the 26L and replaced the damaged 24L unit. I once again queried him about the electrical connection and the exposed poly pipe. He said he would return with some insulation for the pipes and that electrical connection was between me and the retailer. I also queried him about water fluctuations when other valves were opened while the system was in use. He explained that fluctuations had to do with the pressure throughout the plumbing.
- That afternoon I first called the Ministry for Consumer Affairs and was advised that I should do everything possible to resolve the matter with the retailer and if I could not come to a satisfactory outcome, that I should finish the installation at my own cost and relay the costs onto the retailer with legal representation if necessary.
- Directly after that phone conversation with the Ministry for Consumer Affairs, I visited the retailer. The manager was not available so I spoke with the new sales assistant. I told him about the outstanding electrical work, the fluctuating pressure, and the exposed poly pipes that were a concern to me come winter. He said that only the manager could deal with the matter and that he was in hospital undergoing eye surgery. I expressed frustration at the sales assistant and the fact that the manager was the only person who could help and that I thought responsibility should have been delegated.
- At this point the sales assistant started to question my version of events and my expectations. I was angered by this because on the one hand the sales assistant was saying that only the manager knew the full history and that only he could help me, yet the sales assistant seemed to think he knew enough about the history to question my complaints. A second sales assistant (who seemed to be also new in the store) stepped in to mediate. The first sales assistant left to attend to another customer. I explained the whole story to the second sales assistant and reiterated my disbelief at the service and handling of my situation to date. The assistant seemed genuinely sympathetic to my situation and assured me that the manager would contact me as soon as he was out of hospital.
- The manager did not call. I telephoned the finance company and explained that I did not think I should be paying installments as I had not received all that I had paid for - which included NZ$900 for installation based on the original quote from the retailer. The finance company agreed to reset the interest free period to account for the delays, and to contact the retailer on my behalf.
- Seeing as both telephone and face to face communication were unreliable ways to communicate with the retail manager, I decided to start putting things in writing and send him email outlining my concerns, complaints and expectations and included the finance company's email address as a CC. I received a reply to my initial email the next day explaining his version of events and and a general reluctance to meet with my expectations. As I was able to prove corrections to his version of events I sent a second and more extended email to which I received a brief reply saying he was busy and would read it more fully when he had time.
- In this time the hot water system has failed on two occasions, giving an error reading of 11 - C2. I have referred to the owner's manual and the Paloma website which explains that code 11 means no gas and neither explain what C2 mean. Both cylinders have gas and all valves are open.
- On the morning of the first failure I called the retailer and explained the situation. The same sales assistant answered that questioned my account several weeks earlier. After I explained the fault I also inquired on the progress of arranging the electrical connection, he again questioned my version of events, and even accused me of knowing that the installation was more than an average and simple installation. After some heated and emotional words on my part, it eventually become clear that the sales assistant did not have a correct understanding of the course of events, and I could see why he may have wanted to question me. However I think I made it clear to him that he was misinformed on a number of points and even asked him and the manager to pay a visit to the site which would make it very clear that the installation was very simple and should be easily achievable within the $900 that was originally quoted. I pointed out that the installation thus far had taken no longer than 60 minutes for a plumber and a gas fitter, that minimal materials were used, and that so far it would seem that $900 worth of installation service and materials had not been spent. The telephone call came to calm end with the sales assistant saying he had a customer to serve and that he "felt sorry for me".
- A few days later I received a call from the gas fitter saying that he had been contacted by the retailer to check the system for any fault. He found no fault and was not able to tell me what the code C2 meant. We both knew what code 11 meant and he was able to confirm that nothing was wrong with either the quantities of gas or the flow from the bottles to the system. I also asked him to send the plumber back to look at refitting the poly pipes so I could install the supplied cover. The gas fitter made a claim that on the day of the installation I expressed a preference that the poly pipes be installed the way they were. I recall no such thing and explained to the gas fitter that I would have never been OK with the use of a rusty garden tap and drain outlets to connect the system through, and that the long lengths of exposed poly pipe had always been a concern to me. I offered to remove all internal wall surfaces around the shower so as to make it very easy for the plumber to refit the system directly to the shower pipes instead of the garden tap. The gas fitter seemed to think that a reasonable offer and agreed to contact the plumber and ask him to visit. He advised that he would call back with the meaning of code C2 and a time when the plumber was available.
- In that phone conversation with the gas fitter, he disclosed to me that the retailer had not yet paid him for the original installation done over 2 months ago. I have not heard back from the gas fitter or the plumber and am concerned that they are not willing to return to the job until the retailer pays them for their services thus far.
- I have recently sent another email to the retail manager alerting him to the fault and code mystery and to make it known my willingness to prepare the space and electrical cable ready for the tradesmen to come in and connect. I have advised that with the prep work both tradesmen should not need to be here more than 1 hour each. I have not received a reply to that email, nor have I heard from any tradesmen.
- I have also made 3 attempts to contact the NZ General Manager for the retail franchise but 2 weeks later he has not returned those calls
- I have attempted to contact the manufacturer of the Paloma water heaters to find out what error code C2 means, but the only contact (which is an online email form on their website) is not working and returning an error message. See screen grab