Caravan new, just not brand new

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2014
Ernie and Liz Patterson
DANIEL TOBIN/Fairfax NZ
BUMPY RIDE: Ernie and Liz Patterson bought what they thought was a "brand new" caravan in 2011, but it was made in 2007 – or possibly even earlier.

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An elderly Christchurch couple are devastated they spent thousands of dollars on a "brand new" caravan only to discover it was faulty and possibly made more than four years before the purchase.

Liz and Ernie Patterson, both 76, bought an $85,000 fifth-wheel caravan they believed was new from Hodge RV Co Ltd in 2011.

The couple lost a court case this week after suing Hodge RV for the return of their money. The judge ruled the caravan was "new" because it had no previous owner.

Ernie Patterson, a retired electrical engineer who used to inspect caravans on behalf of the NZ Motor Caravan Association, said he and his wife thought their new purchase was "the bee's knees" at first.

They say they soon found several problems, including a heating system they claim "did not and still does not" work, a loose connection to a television satellite dish and a defective battery.

The Pattersons tried returning the trailer to Hodge RV in 2012 and asked for their money back but were unsuccessful.

They then sued Hodge RV under the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act in the Christchurch District Court but the ruling went against them.

In his decision, Judge Gary MacAskill said the Pattersons were not legally entitled to reject the caravan under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

In an affidavit in court, Liz Patterson said they were not told the vehicle was made in 2007 and would have looked for a newer model had they known, she said.

Patterson told The Press she and her husband, who has terminal melanoma, were "absolutely floored" by the judge's decision.

Ernie Patterson said he found stickers in the caravan from 2003 and 2004 but only after hearings concluded.

"They misrepresented the age of it. As far as I am concerned, we are entitled to our money back."

Judge MacAskill said "there was no proven element of falsity in the representation" of the caravan as "new" and "brand new", because the contract signed by the Pattersons stated the "vehicle year" as 2007.

"[Hodge RV] were entitled to treat the plaintiffs as informed buyers. The caravan was described . . . as ‘new' and ‘brand new' and these expressions meant . . . that [it] had no previous owner or use and was in ‘new' condition," he said.

In a similar case, The Press discovered Hodge RV was ordered by the Disputes Tribunal to pay a Kaitaia couple $7772 last year.

Lloyd and Margaret Matthews' fifth-wheel caravan, which cost $51,990 in 2011, was also advertised as "brand new" but the Matthews discovered it was several years old when they bought it.

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A code on the caravan's tyres indicated they were made in 2004 and it also had two lots of repairs before it was sold, including structural work.

The Disputes Tribunal said:

"The description of the fifth-wheel was not just ‘new', it was ‘brand new'.

In the mind of an ordinary consumer, those words would convey not just that the vehicle had no previous owners . . . but also that it was a reasonably current or recent model."

The tribunal found this to be a "misrepresentation" under the Contractual Remedies Act and a "misleading representation" under the Fair Trading Act.

The directors of Hodge RV, when contacted by The Press through their lawyer, declined to comment on the Pattersons' case.

- The Press

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