Fifth furniture retailer convicted in five months: $7,260 fines and costs, "leather lounge suites" were vinyl and leather
31 August 2000
Commerce Commission action in the furniture industry continued today, when the Christchurch District Court ordered Garry Brian McCone and Stephen Jack Brian, who trade as Christchurch Auctions, to pay fines and costs totalling $7,260 for breaching the Fair Trading Act.
Christchurch Auctions had promoted, in Invercarill, Timaru and Christchurch auctions of what it described as "leather lounge suites". All of the suites were covered with a mixture of vinyl and leather.
Commission Chair John Belgrave said that this was the fifth furniture retailer to be convicted in the last five months for breaching the Act. The Act prohibits false or misleading claims.
"Furniture is a big cost to consumers," Mr Belgrave said, "and we have been concerned for some time about misleading claims by furniture retailers. We have done much education work, often in conjunction with the Retail Merchants Association. Disappointingly, not all furniture retailers have taken notice.
"Furniture retailing is one of our target industries for enforcement action. We will continue investigations and more prosecutions are likely."
In this case, Christchurch Auctions published advertisements in the Southland Times on October 23, 27 and 30 last year, in the Timaru Herald on November 13, 17 and 20 and in The Press on December 16.
The advertisements made statements including: "opportunity of a lifetime to purchase your leather lounge suite", "leather lounge suites" and "18 new leather lounge suites". They made no mention of vinyl covering.
Judge Abbott said that customers were misled and the damage done when the advertising was published. Any corrective statements that might have been made at the auctions would not remedy that breach.
The most common Fair Trading Act issues among furniture retailers are:
- false claims about the composition of furniture
- false or misleading claims about prices
- not providing the goods advertised, and
- offering gifts or prizes and not providing them.
Recent Fair Trading Act prosecutions of furniture retailers:
- Hazelwoods Home Traders Limited, Upper Hutt District Court, total fines $15,000 for not providing all the items advertised in a "fantastic start up package deal", and for describing pine furniture as "solid rimu"
- Panmure Furniture City 1983 Limited, Auckland District Court, $10,000 fine and costs for offering free gifts with the intention of not providing them as offered
- Furniture Now Limited, Napier District Court, total fines $8,000 for similar breaches to those committed by Hazelwoods, and
- Waitemata Backcare Beds and Waterbeds Limited, Waitakere District Court, $3,500 fine for an offer described as "interest free" that was not genuinely interest free.
Media contact: Fair Trading Manager Rachel Leamy
Phone work (04) 498 0908, cellphone 025 208 0841
Communications Officer Vincent Cholewa
Phone work (04) 498 0920