The act covers goods (new and second-hand) and services ordinarily purchased for personal, domestic or household use. “Goods” include pretty much everything in and around the home – from appliances to vehicles, furniture to food. Gas, electricity, water and computer software are also covered.
“Services” include things done by tradespeople such as plumbers and painters, professionals such as dentists and lawyers, after-sales and repair services from shops, and all the services you get from insurers, petrol stations and travel agents. In general, if you pay for it, it’s covered.
The act also applies to goods you hire and to gifts. If you’re given something, you have the same rights as if you bought it yourself, and can seek redress directly for any problem.
What it doesn’t cover
The act only applies if you buy goods or services from sellers “in trade”.
This means it does not cover private sales. However, it does cover goods sold in second-hand shops, and goods sold over the internet by businesses trading here.
The act does not cover the purchase of homes, although it does cover home repairs. Nor does it cover goods or services usually bought for commercial use, such as medical equipment or the installation of industrial machinery.
Sellers can’t contract out
Sellers cannot exempt themselves from their obligations under the act, even if they put it in a contract. So, if a retailer puts up a sign saying “no refunds or exchanges” it is meaningless. You still have full rights under the act.
This also means guarantees and warranties cannot state “no consequential losses are covered”, because attempts to contract out of the act may mislead consumers about their rights.
The Commerce Commission may use the Fair Trading Act to prosecute traders attempting to contract out of the act.
Sellers can only contract out of the act when goods are used for business. When a product is ordinarily purchased for domestic use but is used for business purposes – such as a mobile phone – the act will allow a seller to contract out. Any contracting out must be done in writing at the point of sale.