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What are Your Consumer Rights in New Zealand?

We all buy stuff.

Despite trying to avoid it because we are cheap backpackers, we all buy stuff. It could be a pizza at the supermarket, a brand new phone because you dropped yours down a mountain somewhere, or a mechanical check on your campervan. For those purchases and more, it’s well worth knowing your rights as a consumer in New Zealand.

Although New Zealand is by no means notorious for being a country of scammers and unfair traders (well, no more than any other country at least), there may be the odd dodgy seller or service provider you encounter on your travels.

Luckily in New Zealand, we have a couple of laws to protect us from such unpleasant encounters: The Fair Trading Act and The Consumer Guarantees Act. To bring you up to speed while you’re travelling, we’ll outline your consumer rights in New Zealand.

Warning: this isn’t the most riveting of literature, but we have cut as much BS out as possible so that this learning process isn’t too painful. You’re welcome!

5 rights you might not know you have as a consumer

Don’t just take the salesperson’s word for it. Know your rights so you can call bullshit on those dodgy dealers.

  • Only sellers and service providers “in trade” are covered by consumer laws. (More on that below).
  • Prices must include GST (tax), or if it is not included, that is made clear to you. Read more about GST here.
  • Surcharges must be made very clear. For example, if a cafe increases its prices by 20% on a public holiday, they must have clear signage showing this.
  • When buying something through telemarketing or door-to-door sales, you have the right to cancel the agreement within five working days of receiving a copy of the agreement.
  • When purchasing an extended warranty, you must be provided with a written summary of your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act compared to those rights in the warranty.
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The Fair Trading Act – How the good or service is presented

The Fair Trading Act covers the way that a good or service is presented to you. Basically, it’s to stop false advertisement.

From huge hostel chains, airlines and department stores to a small souvenir stall, anyone “in trade” has the Fair Trading Act applied to them. “In trade” means anyone who makes, buys or obtains goods with the intention of selling and are GST registered. Read more about GST in New Zealand here. A person selling their unwanted items on TradeMe, New Zealand’s auction website, that they initially bought for personal use would not be considered “in trade”, for example.

The Fair Trading Act makes it illegal for businesses and people in trade to mislead consumers. The act covers all aspects of the promotion of goods and services, any information given about the goods or services verbally or in writing, and any impressions given by promotional material.

Basically, if the good or service is presented in a misleading way, then that business in trade is breaking the law.

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The Consumer Guarantees Act – once goods are purchased

The Consumer Guarantees Act applies when you have purchased a good (or services, see below) bought for personal use.

However, the Act does not apply to private sales – a sale not open to the public and just arranged between seller and buyer.

The Act guarantees that goods (and services) should:

  • be of acceptable quality
  • be fit for purpose
  • match the description
  • be delivered as agreed, or if no time period has been set, within reasonable time
  • match it’s sample or demonstration model
  • be sold by a trader who has the right to sell them
  • be supported by available spare parts and repair facilities by manufacturers.

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THE CONSUMER GUARANTEES ACT – once services have been provided

This Act also applies to services, for instance, mechanical work on your car or getting a tattoo. If the service has been purchased for personal use (not business) then you are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act.

If a service does not meet the guarantees below, then you have the right to get the problem sorted out. Those guarantees are:

  • Reasonable care and skill – any work done for you must be at least average.
  • Fit for purpose – after you have told the service provider what you want, and they have accepted, they must make sure that you get what you want.
  • Completed within reasonable time – if a timeframe has been agreed on, the work must be finished within that time. If a time hasn’t been agreed, then the job must be completed within reasonable time.
  • Reasonable price – if a price for the work has not been discussed, you do not have to pay a price which is unreasonable.

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What happens if you have a problem with a service?

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, your rights depend on how serious the problem is. First, you must go to the provider and explain the problem.

For minor problems, give the provider the opportunity to fix the problem. You only need to give them one opportunity to fix the issue though. This should be at no extra cost to you.

If the provider is being an arse by refusing, taking more than the reasonable time to fix it, or the problem is not resolved, then you have two options:

  • get another service provider to fix the issue and claim the cost from the first provider, or
  • cancel the contract and refuse to pay, or pay less than agreed. If you have already paid, you might be able to get some or all your money back.

For serious problems you can jump straight to cancelling the contract and getting your money back, or refusing to pay. A serious problem is defined by the service provider making something unsafe or making something considerably unfit for purpose, e.g. after visiting a mechanic your car breaks down straight after.

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How to enforce your rights

First things first, keep the receipt and contact the seller or service provider with your issue and try to resolve it with them. If they continue to not meet the guarantees outlined in The Consumer Guarantees Act or follow The Fair Trading Act and/or do not try to resolve the issue with a refund, replacement, etc.  then which authority you take the matter to depends on which Act the issue is covered by.

The Fair Trading Act is enforced by the Commerce Commission, who you can contact by calling 0800 943600 or use an complaint form on their website.

For matters concerning the Consumer Guarantees Act, the Disputes Tribunal is a personal, informal and relatively inexpensive way to resolve the complaint. Find out more about the Disputes Tribunal on the Ministry of Justice’s website.

More articles on buying stuff in New Zealand

Hopefully this article was more useful than it was entertaining, but, if for some reason, you want to read more about buying things in New Zealand, then perhaps these articles will sizzle your bacon.

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