A Rotorua man has been affected by regional coding problems on his DVD player - the same issue being investigated across the Tasman by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Steve Sutcliffe bought a DVD copy of Clockwork Orange to play on his Gateway PC. The disc was coded to play in both region 4, of which New Zealand is part, and region 2 - but was labelled as only region 4.
DVD drives for PCs are shipped with regional coding left unlocked for five changes, so the PC manufacturers don't have to stock different versions of the same drive for different regions. Regionalisation was introduced by the DVD Copy Control Association in the US as a way of stopping consumers purchasing a DVD of a movie before it's released locally at the cinema. DVD players of any kind must incorporate the regional playback control (RPC) system.
When Sutcliffe played his new DVD, his PC changed the DVD drive to region 2 coding, costing him one of the five switches he is allowed.
"I have a raft of correspondence with Whitcoulls, Gateway and even Warner Brothers about this problem but all Whitcoulls can offer is a refund on the disc. What about the switch I have used up?"
Sutcliffe points out that most DVDs available in rental shops are region 1, the US, which means a further switch to watch a rented movie before switching back to watch a purchased movie.
Consumers' Institute director David Russell says this has the potential to be a big problem.
"If people are not told [of the issue] then it could be a breach of the Consumer Guarantee's Act - if they're buying or hiring something for their own personal use."
Russell says anything that is sold must be of "reasonable quality" for the purpose intended.
"If I bought a computer and bought or hired a DVD and wasn't warned either by the seller of the computer or the disc of what the situation was, then I would go ahead and play it."
He says it would be "a question of loss of value" because the DVD drive would no longer work as it should.
"The claim would be against the shop that sold or rented the disc."
Part of the act allows a claim for "consequential loss" and providing that loss was real and actual and not simply hardship-related, there is scope for recompense.
Earlier this week IDGNet reported that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was investigating the practice of regional coding following similar incidents in Australia, also involving a Gateway machine (see Australia probes DVD regional coding in PC drives).