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11 April 2024

Happy 30th birthday Consumer Guarantees Act: Consumer NZ urges shoppers to use the act that has their back

The Consumer Guarantees Act is celebrating its 30th anniversary, but despite this, knowledge of consumer law is limited.

Consumer nz website customer makes a successful product return

Gemma Rasmussen, head of research and advocacy at Consumer NZ says New Zealanders are missing out because they don’t understand their rights when it comes to sub-standard goods and services.

“Almost half of 18- to 26-year-olds are likely to leave a complaint unresolved due to gaps in consumer knowledge. We want this knowledge gap to close, so everyone can benefit from consumer protections,” says Rasmussen.

“A lot of the wording in the Consumer Guarantees Act is deliberately open-ended which can make it hard for people to understand their rights.”

The law is written that way to account for the different circumstances that might play out between a consumer and a retailer, manufacturer or service provider.

“The CGA gives you power when you've got a pickle with a product or a problem with a business.”

Rasmussen says the 30-year anniversary of these consumer protections is the perfect time for people to learn more about their rights.

“The more people understand how powerful these rights are when it comes to managing problems across nearly every industry – from furniture to food, electricity to travel – the more those industries have to lift their game.”

The CGA can help you find a remedy

If a product or service isn’t up to scratch, under the CGA you may be able access a repair, a replacement or a refund.

Rasmussen knows it can feel intimidating to ask for a remedy, but that’s what you could be entitled to under the CGA.

“Let’s say you’ve recently hired a local tradie to build a fence on your property. If the nails come loose after a few months, contact your tradie, explain why you’re not happy, and ask for things to be put right.

“If you’re particularly conflict-averse, the CGA is your friend! You can use it as a neutral, objective reference to help communicate with a business or seller about their obligations and why you're asking for a fix.”

The CGA may give grounds to request a refund

When a product has a major fault – whether it’s unsafe, poor quality or broken – you can insist on a refund if that’s what you want. You may also be entitled to a refund if the fault is minor but can’t be fixed.

“People often think they can’t get a refund if their product is out of warranty, but that’s incorrect. If you buy a blender for $500 and it suddenly stops working a month after the 12-month warranty has expired, that blender doesn’t meet the ‘acceptable quality’ guarantee. In that case, the CGA has your back.

“You don't have the right to return something if your situation changes, or just because you change your mind, though.”

If you need to request a replacement or refund for a product that isn’t up to scratch, but don’t know how – start with these email templates.

The CGA gives you powerful rights

Rasmussen says you only need to stand up for yourself once to understand how rewarding and easy it can be to exercise your rights under consumer law.

“Asking a retailer or service provider to put things right doesn’t have to be a massive fight. The CGA is a neutral reference point for you to resolve issues in a reasonable and diplomatic way.”

Rasmussen says people have more consumer power than they realise.

“Imagine that every dollar we spend at a business is a vote for that business. If you’re not happy with the service you’ve received, and you ask them to put it right – you’re casting a vote for a better service.

“After 30 years of using the CGA to fight for the rights of New Zealanders, our Consumer Rights hub has hundreds of case studies, tips, tricks and hacks to make handling issues across nearly every industry, a little easier.”

Consumer advice line.

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Got a problem with a faulty product, received shoddy service or been misled by a retailer? Our expert advisers can provide clear, practical advice that you can trust.

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