A tourist who crashed their campervan a day after hiring it has claimed the time it took the company to replace it caused mental suffering that warranted compensation.
The tourist hired the van, and the next day he crashed into a parked car, resulting in the camper having to be towed and a replacement arranged.
So he took the company to the Disputes Tribunal for the four days it took to sort the matter.
But in a recently released decision, the tribunal dismissed the claim brought by the man named as LM because there was no breach of contract.
“Although it is clear this was a frustrating experience for LM and his family and not the experience they wanted on a New Zealand holiday, I am unable to find any breach of contract,” tribunal referee Kaye Edwards said.
The hire was based on an inclusive package but the day after the camper was picked up, LM collided with a parked car and the camper had to be towed and a replacement arranged.
LM complained he was unhappy with the service provided by the company, named in the decision as U Ltd, and the time it took to arrange a replacement camper.
He felt he should receive compensation for “time wasted in waiting for a replacement camper, expenses incurred there, the poor service and the mental and physical suffering his party endured”, the tribunal said.
LM claimed he was not told it could take four days to find a replacement vehicle, but the hire company said it made 14 calls to update him on progress, and they had received 25 calls from LM.
The hire company disputed any liability as it considered it had complied with its obligations under the hire agreement.
It said LM was kept informed as best as possible and staff apologised to him for the delays.
U Ltd provided evidence of the terms and conditions that were made available to LM when the booking was made, but the tourist said there was “too much information provided” and as his English was limited, he did not read the terms and conditions.
The tribunal accepted it might have been difficult for LM to read the six-page document as English was his second language.
However, it was LM’s responsibility to ensure he was aware of the terms and conditions of any contract he entered.
“As LM signed as accepting the contract terms and conditions, I find he is bound by them,” Edwards said.
The hire firm’s national operations manager argued it was covered by a clause in the agreement stating that an exchange vehicle was not guaranteed and that provision was subject to availability, customer location, accident liability and remaining hire duration.
LM had been told a number of times it would take time to source another vehicle, to prepare it and to have it delivered to a suitable location, the hire company said.
It also explained that hire companies often had to wait for a vehicle to be returned before a replacement could be provided.
LM was also concerned about the lack of adequate transport when his vehicle was towed after the accident and the lack of suitable accommodation arranged on the family’s first night in the location where the incident happened.
The tribunal was unable to find any clause in the contract that placed such a responsibility on the campervan hire company.
Tracy Neal is a Nelson-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She was previously RNZ’s regional reporter in Nelson-Marlborough and has covered general news, including court and local government for the Nelson Mail.