Meet the people putting the pressure on
Our small but mighty Consumer NZ team is dedicated to making things better for New Zealanders, and regularly go up against big companies to fight for you and your rights.
Because we’re a proudly independent not-for-profit, and not government funded, we rely on donations and member subscriptions to keep fighting the good fight. If you can help us keep the pressure on, please donate today.
Here are a few of the team who are championing everyday New Zealanders, every day.
Aneleise has been an integral part of the Consumer team since 2014, in the role of consumer advocate. The sheer love of helping people gets Aneleise going, and she gets as much of a kick out of standing up for consumers now as when she first started eight years ago.
Previously a lawyer with a big corporate law firm, Aneleise decided she wanted to use her skills and legal knowledge to help people stand up for their rights.
“It’s been great seeing the laws change, to make things fairer for consumers, and the impact we have on making that happen,” Aneleise said.
Among the changes Aneleise has been involved with are:
A ban on unfair contract terms – to stop businesses unfairly disadvantaging consumers.
The Do Not Knock campaign and the introduction of fines for sellers who ignore Do Not Knock stickers.
Putting pressure on airlines to do better by consumers during travel disruptions caused by Covid-19.
Convincing companies to extend their unfair gift card expiry dates.
Encouraging banks to stop charging fees for withdrawing cash from other banks’ ATMs.
As well as the law changes, Aneleise has helped countless consumers get refunds and compensation from businesses when they haven’t been treated fairly.
“I’m especially proud of the work we did during the first Covid lockdown,” she said. “Hundreds of consumers were affected by cancellations, and so many were left out of pocket when they shouldn’t have been.
“I remember one woman who contacted us for help after her wedding was cancelled due to Covid. The venue was trying to retain her 50% deposit, despite the fact they weren’t providing any services. It was really unreasonable, so I was very happy to be able to help the couple get a more reasonable refund.”
Head of communications and campaigns, Gemma has been with Consumer almost two years.
About 10 years ago, Gemma had a battle with Jetstar after the airline charged her twice for one flight, but never issued a ticket. When all her efforts to reason with the airline failed, she turned to the media for help. A front-page story in the Dominion Post ensued, as did a refund from Jetstar – and a love of fighting for consumer rights.
Gemma realised how much power big businesses have, and how hard it is for consumers who are badly treated by those big businesses. Having had her first taste of the fight, and a consumer win, the experience ignited a hunger for more.
Gemma has been working in communications for more than a decade, inspired by an interest in people and their stories. Her experience includes a stint at Choice, our Australian sister organisation, where she worked in the communications and campaigns team.
In her time at Consumer, Gemma has driven our campaign functionality, creating new ways for Consumer’s supporters to engage with us.
“I am really keen for Consumer to be in regular dialogue with its supporters,” Gemma said. “We have found that our supporters love to get involved in our campaign work, whether it’s through signing a petition, sharing their stories of dodgy practices or taking part in a poll.”
The supermarket campaign has been a highlight of her time with Consumer so far.
“The supermarkets campaign is a great example of New Zealanders rallying together to create seismic change in the system. It goes to show the power people have when they stand together and say enough is enough.”
Gemma is also proud of the sentiment tracking which she introduced last year. Every quarter, Consumer surveys the public to get insights into how consumers are feeling about all aspects of their lives and environment. This data and the quarterly Sentiment Tracker report provide rich and valuable insights, which inform both Consumer’s content and campaign ideas.
“Now we are more informed about how the public is feeling, it means we are making informed decisions about our campaigning, too.”
Elizabeth joined Consumer as a legal adviser four months ago. A big part of her role is writing legal submissions on public consultations and dealing with complaints to make sure the consumer voice is represented.
“This is very much an advocacy-based role,” Elizabeth said.
A law graduate with previous experience working at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth was keen to put her skills and experience to use by creating space for people who otherwise might not have a platform to be heard.
“It’s so important that people in positions of power, and decision-makers, listen and understand what’s important for consumers. We spend a lot of time working on submissions to various organisations, such as government departments, carefully crafting our consultation responses so consumers are well represented.”
Elizabeth thrives on the many and varied opportunities to assist consumers.
“The ability to use my position of privilege to help people and make a difference is really important to me. Nōku te waimarie, nōku te whiwhi – I am lucky, I am fortunate, to be able to work in this role and help empower consumers.”
Ruairi, an investigative writer, has been with Consumer for six months. He is especially interested in climate change, data and privacy, and how those matters will affect New Zealand consumers over the next decade.
Before working for Consumer, Ruairi worked for a trend and forecasting consultancy in London. There, he helped businesses and government departments to think about the future and what it meant for their long-term strategies.
“It’s hard to think about the long term when you’re struggling to put food on the table and fuel in your car,” Ruairi said.
“Businesses have big budgets and consultants to do this long-term thinking for them; consumers aren’t so lucky. I try to anticipate the problems consumers could face in the future, so we can prevent them from happening at all.”
Being a consumer is an inescapable part of modern life, he said, and the role of Consumer NZ is vital in protecting individuals’ interests as they engage with big corporations.
“Customers need someone to lobby on their behalf – that’s our role.”
One of Ruairi’s biggest wins so far is working with a government department to help vulnerable consumers maximise their purchasing power.
“Using the information we have at our fingertips here at Consumer, I pulled together information about the expected lifetime costs of everyday whiteware items. This is now available for some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable consumers and will help them to make better purchasing choices. This information will ultimately benefit those consumers in the long term and will also be better for our environment, too.”
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