TODAY |

The one that got away: Waipū fisherman left disappointed after fishing drone malfunction

Most weekends you can find Matt Banks fishing at Uretiti Beach in Waipū. It's his way of unwinding at the end of the week.

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Matt and Janine Banks told Fair Go they should've either been given the option of a drone repair at the Auckland store's cost or a full refund. Source: Fair Go

In 2019, after going to a beach demonstration, he bought himself a fishing drone. Matt says these drones are a game changer for the sport. 

"It's a lot easier than surf casting," he said.

"You probably catch a bit more fish than surf casting and you can get your line out a lot farther."

Drone fishing has become a bit of a craze for fishing fanatics. You hook your line from your reel, with bait attached, to the drone, and fly it out as far as your line can go.

The whole point is that a drone can get out to distances that a human cast can't, doing the hard mahi while you wait on the shore for the line to tug.

"You just had to buy the bait and you're away fishing," Matt said.

"It's pretty simple to operate, nothing complicated about it."

Matt bought the AEE Condor 500 metre model package from a fishing shop in Auckland. The package included a rod, reel, traces on a rack, a hook section, weights and a rod spike all for $1700.

Matt used the drone happily for a good year, until it crashed.

"The drone flew up and out of control and all over the show. It went about 20 or 30 metres down the beach and then crashed upside down," he said.

Luckily for Matt, the drone landed on the shore, but when he tried to send it out a second time, it flew out of control again, and crashed in the same spot.

Matt and his wife Janine sent it back to the fishing shop, and then it was sent it away to a specialist who found that it was the 500 metre wi-fi unit that failed.

The Banks' drone was five weeks over their one-year warranty, which can make it more difficult for a retailer to take a faulty product back to the manufacturer to get replaced or refunded.

But if there’s a major fault with a product, the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) should kick in. And this was a major fault — if you lose your wi-fi connection you can crash, or completely lose your drone out at sea.

Under the CGA, the retailer can choose to either repair the products within a reasonable time, replace the product or refund the value of the product in full. But the store was out of stock of the 500 metre units, so they upgraded the drone, without talking to the Banks, and then asked them to pay for the upgrade, which is $600 more.

"Then they expected us to be happy to hand over another $600 for something that's five weeks out of warranty. That doesn't really wear well with me," Janine said.

When the Bankses disputed the shop's decision, they were put in touch with the store's lawyer, who ultimately told them their insurance should cover the drone repair.

When progress stalled, Janine got in touch with Fair Go, and initially the store owner agreed to replace the 500m unit.

But by this time, the drone had been in the store for three months, and Matt and Janine just wanted a refund, and the store agreed.

A spokesman told Fair Go that since Covid lockdown their suppliers have shut down, and they've had a backlog of requests for stock, which is frustrating for them and for their customers. He said this situation isn’t normal, and they pride themselves on being able to look after customers like the Bankses.