How to get a refund, repair or replacement
Bought something and want to take it back? We explain your consumer rights.
If a product you buy is faulty or not of acceptable quality, you don’t have to put up with it. The Consumer Guarantees Act has got you covered – you don’t need a warranty.
Consumer members can contact our Consumer Advice Line for help. Our advisers will talk you through your rights.
Am I entitled to a refund?
When a product isn’t up to scratch, the Consumer Guarantees Act gives you powerful rights. You don’t need a warranty.
The act says products must be:
- of acceptable quality,
- fit for purpose
- and match their description.
If what you’ve bought doesn’t meet any one of the three criteria above, then the retailer that sold it to you is in breach of the Consumer Guarantees Act.
If a product has a minor fault, the retailer can choose to repair the item, replace it, or refund your money.
But if a product has a major fault, it’s your choice whether you get a replacement or refund. A major fault means a reasonable consumer wouldn't have bought the product if they'd known about the problem.
What kind of products are covered?
The act covers goods (new and second-hand) usually bought for personal, domestic or household use.
“Goods” include pretty much everything in and around your house – from appliances to vehicles, furniture to food. Gas, electricity, water and computer software are covered. It also applies to goods you hire.
The act only applies if you buy goods 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.
It does not cover:
- the purchase of homes,
- goods usually bought for commercial use, such as medical equipment.
What is “acceptable quality”?
Acceptable quality means goods:
- Do what they are made to do.
- Are acceptable in appearance and finish.
- Are free from minor defects.
- Are safe and durable.
The term “acceptable” is deliberately vague. It depends on what a reasonable consumer would think was acceptable based on: what the goods are, the price, any claims that have been made, and the supplier and context in which the goods are supplied.
For example, a concert violin is required to meet a higher standard than a child’s cheap instrument. A tribunal referee or a judge may have to decide what is acceptable in the circumstances.
If a defect was pointed out to you before you bought the good, then it doesn’t count towards making it unacceptable.
Can I get a refund for a faulty gift?
Yes. If you’re given something, you have the same rights as if you bought it yourself.
What if I just changed my mind?
You don't have the right to return goods simply because you've changed your mind or your circumstances have changed.
For example, say you bought a smartphone. What if:
- Your partner bought you one as a surprise on the same day. Can you take one of them back?
- You really wanted a pink one. Can you swap?
- The same phone is $100 cheaper in the shop next door. Can you get a refund?
The answer to all these questions is no. The retailer is under no legal obligation to give you your money back or exchange the product. However, some retailers will do so in the interests of good customer service, so it's worth asking.
Some stores have a no-questions-asked exchange policy for customers who change their mind. This usually means you can swap for another item or a credit note. Occasionally, a store returns policy lets you get a refund but it’s up to the store.
The replacement product I got is faulty too. Is it covered?
Yes. The Consumer Guarantees Act applies to the replacement, so you still have all the rights you’re entitled to when buying a new one.
However, when a faulty product is replaced, any manufacturer’s warranty on the product usually runs only from the original purchase date.
So, if a 6-month-old washing machine is replaced because it is faulty, and there was originally a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty on it, then this warranty will have 6 months to run on the new machine.
I think I'm covered. What do I do now?
Ask the retailer to sort out the problem.
If the problem is minor, and can be fixed, the retailer can choose to either repair the item, replace it or give you a refund.
If the problem can’t be fixed, or can’t be put right within a reasonable time, or is substantial, you can:
- Reject the product and choose a replacement of the same type and similar value or a full refund of your purchase price; or
- Claim compensation for any drop in the value of the product.
- Have it repaired somewhere else and recover the costs from the retailer, if it refuses to fix a faulty product, or fails to do so in a reasonable time.
Sellers cannot just offer credit. If you want a refund, you are entitled to it – by cash, cheque or credit card charge reversal.
How do I make a complaint?
It can be difficult to know how to go about making a complaint. We’ve put together these email templates you can use to help you stand up for your rights.
Our Consumer Advice Line is available to help members with any consumer-related issues. Our expert advisers can explain your rights and help you resolve problems with a retailer or service provider. If you don’t have any rights under consumer law, we’ll explain why.
What is a ‘substantial’ problem?
- A reasonable consumer wouldn’t have bought the goods if they’d known about the fault.
- The goods are significantly different from their description, sample or demonstration model.
- The goods are substantially unfit for purpose.
- The goods are unsafe.
Can I claim for costs?
Yes. For example, if your new washing machine won’t work properly you can claim for laundry costs or the cost of hiring a replacement machine while the first one is being fixed.
The ‘compensation for consequential loss’ must put you back in the position you would have been in if the goods hadn’t been faulty.
Do I have to pay to return a faulty item?
No. If you have to post or courier goods back to be repaired, you don’t have to pay for those costs.
The retailer is being difficult. What can I do?
What if the retailer says they don’t offer refunds?
The supplier is illegally trying to ‘contract out’ of the Act. Even if the goods are sold ‘on special’, they have to provide refunds if they are faulty.
The same applies to “seconds” (goods sold as damaged). However, you cannot complain about the defect that made the product a “second” in the first place, if you were told about that defect prior to buying it.
What if the retailer tells me to talk to the manufacturer?
The retailer can't tell you to deal with the manufacturer instead – you have the right to take the item back to the shop you bought it from and they have to fix the problem. A sign in the store that says “no refunds” Is illegal.
When should I talk to the manufacturer?
Complaining to the manufacturer is useful when, for example, the retailer has gone out of business or is hopeless to deal with. But in most cases, it is easier to insist on your rights directly with the retailer.
If a product has parts made by different manufacturers, you can claim against any or all of them. However, in practice your best bet may be to contact the one whose name is on the product.
Where there has been a breach of the act, manufacturers and importers have to:
- Pay compensation, and/or pay for any loss in value; and
- Honour any express warranty they gave that gives the consumer greater protection than the act.