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Fair Go: March 16

Published: 5:54PM Wednesday March 16, 2011 Source: Fair Go

Who polices the pumps?

Reporter: Gordon Harcourt

So you're standing at the pump, watching those little numbers rocket up, sucking the money out of your pocket straight into your petrol tank. But hang on, why should you trust those little numbers?

There were nearly five BILLION litres of petrol and diesel sold at service stations in New Zealand last year.  Now, if the pumps were just a wee bit wrong that's squillions of dollars at stake.

Chris Murray reckoned he found a dodgy pump.  He's got a Ford Mondeo, and he's pretty much never got more than 55 litres in it before.  Then one day he got 57 litres, then the next time he got 59.6 litres in the tank.  Hang on, he thought, something's not right.  So he complained to Shell, and to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

The Ministry has a unit, the Measurement and Product Safety Service, and one of its jobs is to test petrol pumps.  They do several hundred each year, and they also test the testers - the techs whose job it is to calibrate every single petrol pump every year.

They have legal powers which allow them to show up unannounced on a forecourt, shut down a pump and test it.  And they did.  We filmed Raj from the Ministry at Shell Hillsborough Rd in Auckland, where Chris Murray got the 59.6 litre tank.   It was quite a process.  After more than 1.5 hours, Raj's verdict was "the pump is OK".

Shell was happy, but absolutely unsurprised.  Here's what they told us:
"Obviously we're pleased that the tests confirmed the accuracy of our pump.  Our petrol pumps are monitored and tested regularly by an independent organisation to ensure they are accurate. Consumers can and should have a high level of confidence in their accuracy."

We asked all the major brands (BP, Caltex, Gull, Mobil, Shell) for a statement, and they all said a similar thing - apart from Mobil, who didn't bother responding.  What's your problem, Mobil? 

Basically, the pumps have to be checked by law, and there has to be a current certificate of accuracy on every pump.  It's a small foil sticker and it should be visible on each pump - it'll be issued by Fuelquip or Gilbarco probably. 

Chris Murray is sort of satisfied, but his advice is to keep an eye on that pump.  Our advice is complain to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs if you've got any queries.

Freephone: 0508 627 774 (0508 MAPSS INFO)

Email: mcainfo@mca.govt.nz

Website: www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz/contactform


Goodman 2

Reporters: Phil Vine and Ali Mau

The delicate subject of human waste, and what to do with it, is shaping up as the greatest hassle for our residents (and many like them all over the eastern suburbs.)

Left without mains sewerage after the massive quake on February 22, initially the street had just one Portaloo serving almost 60 houses. Since Fair Go visited 10 days ago, another Portaloo has appeared, but the Council's Wastewater experts say they want every house to have a chemical toilet, as this will reduce the risk of disease.

Up to 16 thousand chemical toilets have now been flown to Christchurch from all parts of the globe, and some Goodman St residents have been lucky enough to get one, but it's how to empty them that's causing the headaches.

Council says every street will get a "street tank" to empty their chemical toilet cartridge into. As our resident Lyndsay found, it's simply not that easy. The only street tank she could find in the Horseshoe Lake area is several blocks from her house - a long slog with a big container of waste. Then there's the challenge of hoisting the container up to the hatch. She says she's had no instructions... and no indication as to whether the tank is even operational.

Speaking of loos, those in Christchurch or people prepping around the country may want to avoid chemicals here's a link to how to go green and make a composting toilet.

Goodman Street's also been struggling with the on-and-off nature of their power supply; restored last week only to fail again. Just yesterday Orion were back sorting the latest faults out. Let's hope that lasts.

But there was a bright spot for one Goodman St local this week. Amy Riley (12) was one of a handful of Christchurch children picked to fly to Wellington to star at the Fill the Basin charity cricket match, which boasted the likes of Russell Crowe, Sir Richard Hadlee and Shane Warne on the pitch. Amy had a wonderful day, and the cricket match raised upwards of $500,000 for earthquake relief.


Crosslease

Reporter: Hannah Wallis

There's about 200,000 crosslease properties in the country - 100,000 in Auckland alone. Usually a split house or identical joined units, you jointly lease the property with your cross-lease neighbour, usually for 999 years so almost as good as freehold.

Marlene Dunick owned such a property in Auckland's Eastern suburbs, a 2-bedroom half house with an identical two bedroom on the other side, a lovely outdoor area, and just a minute's walk to the beach. Recently, the other side of the house was bought by Leigh Nicholson. Leigh's the landlord, she does not live in the property, but she wanted to develop her side of the house, increasing it from about 90 square meters to about 223 square meters - a large house with a second story.

Under the cross lease agreement, the lessees cannot make structural changes to their crosslease property without the consent of the other cross lessee - but you must have reasonable grounds to withhold that consent.

Marlene thought she did - she said such a development would impact on her privacy, her enjoyment of the property, and the value of her own side of the house.

Leigh Nicholson felt the second storey would not make much difference to privacy because she said even from the single level, the lessees could already see into each other's backyards, and because other buildings in the area could look into Marlene's backyard. She said she was entitled to develop her property, and said development of all kinds was going on in the area, including a lot of larger houses. 

Eventually the debate went to arbitration, where the arbitrator said Marlene had been reasonable in withholding her consent for a two-storey building, because of the impacts on her and her property.

But he said she wouldn't have been reasonable to turn down a single story development. Leigh had had some single level plans drawn up, which still significantly increased the floor area, and the arbitrator gave the green light to finish that project.  The arbitrator didn't rule out the second story permanently because future owners of the two sides might feel differently about the development.

Marlene feels she has really lost out in this situation, because although she has - for the time being - stopped the two-storey being built, she was unable to stop the substantial increase in the size of Leigh's house. She says she's out of pocket - legal and other costs - by about $30,000. Marlene says it has been a very tough experience, but she felt she had to fight for her lifestyle, and she wanted other cross lease owners to know what they might be in for.

Leigh Nicholson says the whole mess and expense could've been avoided if Marlene was prepared to negotiate over the development. She says her development was reasonable because her side of the crosslease was 500 square meters in total, compared to Marlene's 300,  and the lessees are permitted to build on up to 35% of the total land area. Leigh says her new house still takes the figure to under 30%.

If you are in Marlene's position, and you want to stop or seriously question a crosslease development, you have to prove that the development has a significant impact on your quality of life.
Property law expert Chris Moore says common impacts would be available light, quality of the air, access to views, anything that has an impact on the value of the property, or has a detrimental impact on the enjoyment of the property.

Leigh had argued that she had still only built on up to 30% of the site, but Chris says its important when buying a cross lease to find out how much site coverage there has already been - because the figure is based on the site coverage of both sections combined, not individually - so if your neighbour builds, or has built, you'll have less area for your projects.

Chris says also; check the external dimensions of the buildings shown on the plan to make sure that they line up. It may be that additional decks have been built; it may be that there are extensions which haven't been recorded on the survey plan for the lease. Make sure these marry up to the actual plans.

Finally - if you're the one doing the developing and you don't get consent from the other cross lease over the worst case scenario is that you can be forced to tear down all your new building and re-instate the property.

Bit of risk to just bulldoze ahead.


Consumer law changes

Reporter: Ali Mau

It's been 20 years since the last major shake-up of Consumer Law. The latest changes are ready to go to Select Committee for consideration, and have been announced today by John Boscawen, Minister of Consumer Affairs.

Finally, Consumer Law will specifically cover internet auction sites like TradeMe, which is so loved by Kiwis that it has 2.3 million active members& 70,000 people on the site bidding on up to 1.3 million auctions in any single peak hour.

Until now, if you pressed the fixed price or "buy now" button to make your purchase, you were covered by all the guarantees in the Consumer Guarantee Act, just as if you bought the item from a retail outlet. If you bought it by bidding against another member, you were not. If the legislation passes through Parliament, you will now be protected in the same manner.

If the new legislation passes into law, courier and carrier companies will have to change their practices too. Until now if a carrier lost or damaged the goods you sent, the law provided you with compensation up to $1500.00. But carrier companies were often able to "contract out" of those protections through a loophole in the Carriage of Goods Act, leaving you with nothing.

Now that loophole's been closed, giving you more protection and the upper limit for compensation has been raised to $2500.00.

And some more good news: remember Libby's story from last year about Extended Warranties? We were shocked at the methods some salespeople use to get us to buy these expensive policies that often don't give you any protection you don't already get under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

A review's found consumers are not getting enough information - from poorly trained staff - about the product OR what the CGA already provides. So the new law will require retailers to tell you what extra benefits the extended warranty gives you, and if you do buy one, you'll have a seven day cooling off period if you want to change your mind.

 There's more changes coming, such as:

* re-writing the Pawnbrokers Act so you're not classed as a second hand dealer if you have a garage sale

* the rules for lay-bys will be tidied up

* traders and retailers will have to ensure the claims they're making are valid

* you'll have five working days to change your mind about anything you buy from a door to door salesman or telemarketer

* the disputes tribunal will get more teeth, taking on complaints about misleading and deceptive conduct

And the courts will have the power to ban anyone who's been convicted of breaching the Fair Trading Act twice or more in a ten year period from owning or managing any company.

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