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