Top tips for Christmas shopping
Stressed about the pre-Christmas shopping rush? Here are 7 top tips to make gift buying a breeze, plus your rights when things don't go to plan.
1. Watch out for sale prices
Are you tempted by a “sale” price that looks too good to miss? Check you’re getting a genuine bargain before handing over your cash. Do a quick online comparison of prices on other retailers’ websites to see whether it’s the best price on offer. Sales are so common at some retailers that discounts aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.
2. Get an exchange card
Not sure your gift will get a glowing reception? To avoid it gathering dust in someone’s wardrobe or being “re-gifted”, ask the store for an exchange card so the recipient can swap the unloved item for something else. Not all stores offer exchange cards, but they may still be willing to do an exchange.
3. Avoid gift cards
Gift cards are the go-to option if you’re short on time or ideas. But before you buy, check whether the card has an expiry date. Cards with short expiry dates mean they could become worthless before they can be redeemed. You could always consider giving cash instead – it doesn’t come with any expiry date. Check out our campaign to end unfair gift card expiry dates.
4. Avoid extended warranties
If you’re offered an extended warranty with your purchase, don’t waste your money. You’ll probably be paying for protection you already have under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). The CGA requires goods to be of acceptable quality. The retailer must put things right when a product doesn’t measure up.
5. Ignore pressure tactics
“Hurry, last items in this size.” “Limited stock.” “Ten other people are looking at this.” Treat these claims with the scepticism they deserve. They’re pressure tactics that tempt you to head to the checkout without delay. Don’t let them sway you into making a purchase you could end up regretting.
6. Watch out for credit traps
Is your shopping budget running thin? Many retailers will be more than happy to offer you credit with an interest-free period. But think carefully before signing up – these offers may be interest-free but rarely fee-free. You’ll usually have to pay a fee to set up the deal, and you can also be stung with default fees if you miss payments.
Missed payment fees can also apply if you sign up with services such as Afterpay and Laybuy. With these payment options, you get your goods immediately and pay off the price in instalments. But they’re not currently covered by credit or layby laws, and you don’t have the same right to cancel if you change your mind.
7. Remember that mistakes happen
Check your bank statements and receipts to make sure you haven’t been overcharged. If you spot an error, immediately contact the retailer and ask it to fix the problem.
What the law says
The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) applies to all traders that advertise or sell to Kiwi consumers, even if the company is based abroad. The CGA covers all items bought from a trader for personal use. It doesn’t matter if you purchased the product or received it as a gift.
The CGA requires that goods:
are of acceptable quality
are fit for purpose
match the advertised descriptions
will be priced reasonably (if no price or pricing systems have been agreed upfront)
will be delivered on time or within a reasonable time if the supplier arranges delivery
will be owned by the customer once purchased.
What to do if things go wrong
Retailers don’t have to take back goods if you simply get a case of buyer’s remorse. But if your purchase isn’t of acceptable quality, it’s a different story.
Contact the retailer
Your first step is to contact the retailer and give it a chance to fix the problem.
You’ll need proof of purchase, such as a receipt or bank statement.
When the fault with the item is minor, the retailer can choose to repair it, replace it or give you a refund. If the item has a significant fault, it’s up to you whether you want a refund or replacement.
Retailers can’t dodge their CGA obligations by putting up signs such as “no refunds” or “no returns on sale items”. They also can’t bury these types of claims in their terms and conditions. If the product is faulty, the retailer must put it right.
Traders also risk breaching the Fair Trading Act if they mislead you about your rights or their products.
Ask for a chargeback
If you didn’t receive your order or can’t get a refund from the retailer and you paid by credit or debit card, you can ask your bank for a chargeback.
Go to the Disputes Tribunal
Alternatively, you can file a claim with the Disputes Tribunal (for disputes up to $30,000). It costs between $45 and $180 to file a claim.
Complain to the Commerce Commission
If you’ve been misled by a retailer, make a complaint to the Commerce Commission. Let us know, too.