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Know your rights

Keep Christmas a happy time with our advice for buying safe products and avoiding scams.


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Don’t get ripped off

Christmas and the holiday period are peak times for shopping – so it pays to know your consumer rights. Here’s a rundown on how the law protects you before and after you buy something.

Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA)

The CGA covers goods (new and second-hand) and services you buy for personal or household use from a retailer. It doesn’t cover items bought for business purposes or from a private seller. The CGA means retailers “guarantee” their goods and services will:

  • be of acceptable quality
  • be fit for purpose
  • match how the product or service is described in advertisements, on websites, or by the salesperson
  • be a reasonable price if on price has been agreed.

They also “guarantee” you’ll fully own the good or service once you’ve paid for it – that is, there’s no money owing on the item and no one else has any ownership rights.

If goods don’t live up to these “guarantees”, the retailer must sort it out. If the fault is minor, the retailer can choose to repair the item, replace it, or refund your money. If the fault is major, it’s your choice whether you opt for a replacement or refund.

A retailer or trader can’t contract out of the CGA, even if the item is in a sale. Also, the CGA covers gifts you receive as well as items you’ve bought yourself.

Complain immediately to the retailer if the goods or services you’ve received aren’t up to standard – or if you feel you’ve been deceived or misled.

If the retailer won’t fix it, you can complain to an industry complaints body (if there is one) or the Commerce Commission. You can also take a case to your nearest Disputes Tribunal. Paying Consumer members can also contact our Advisory Service on 0800 266 786 and info@consumer.org.nz for advice on consumer issues. Non-paying members can also contact the service for help with issues regarding a Consumer Trusted business.

Fair Trading Act (FTA)

The FTA protects you from being misled and unfairly treated by retailers or traders. Here’s some of what it covers:

  • misleading or deceptive conduct (for example: a salesperson sells you a “real leather” couch that’s actually a vinyl lookalike)
  • false claims and representations (for example: an item manufactured in China is labelled "Made in Italy")
  • unfair practices and misleading selling methods (for example: offering prizes or gifts without intending to supply them).

Buy safe products

The last thing you want to give anyone for Christmas is an electric shock or a collapsing highchair. Here are tips to ensure a gift doesn’t result in a visit to the emergency room.

Be on guard when buying gifts for children. We’ve come across a surprising number of faulty children’s products over the past decade. Watch out for products that come with any small part a child could pull off and swallow – especially those button batteries. And make sure replacement button batteries aren’t left where kids can find them.

To protect kids, always check the instructions for nursery products. Also make sure you (or their parent) know how to set up the product and use it safely.

Some items are covered by safety standards. Look for marks that show compliance with Australian/NZ (AS/NZS), British (BS), American (ASTM or CFR), and European (EN) standards.

There are some items that must comply with an approved standard. They are:

  • bicycles
  • children’s night clothes
  • toys
  • cots
  • baby walkers

Buying more electrical and electronic products over the internet has been good for our wallets but not always so good for safety. The danger comes from imported products that don’t comply with our electrical safety standards – some are a fire risk or could cause an electric shock.

Here are some simple safety tips:

  • Ask the seller to provide a Supplier Declaration of Conformity (SDoC) – this proves an electrical product is legal.
  • Check the voltage – it must be 230 volts and 50 Hhrtz to operate safely. If the item's plug is marked otherwise, it's no good.
  • Avoid appliances without English instructions.
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