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Opinion: It’s hard to get good advice

A Consumer NZ technical writer was taken aback when a member told him a sales assistant at a Noel Leeming store had said not to bother with Consumer advice as it was paid to do product reviews — specifically phone reviews.

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I had a similar experience in a Harvey Norman store once. The ruddy-faced assistant told me Consumer reviews of televisions weren’t to be relied on. He apologised when I said who I was, then proceeded to try and sell me an overpriced HDMI cable but that’s another story.

The information supplied by the overly enthusiastic staff in both shops was dead wrong. Consumer bases its reputation on being independent. Our members know that — it’s one of the main reasons they pay to join. It’s also why they are quick to tell us when they think they are being told porkies by salespeople.

But where would the assistants have obtained this false information? Did they just make it up as part of their sales patter or is it company policy in big box retailers? Who knows. Last time we asked one of the chain retailers to show us the manual it used to train staff, it said it was commercially sensitive.

We know through our experience of running Consumer Trusted and other endorsement programmes, retailers and service providers have a poor knowledge of their obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act. What we don’t know is whether that paucity is deliberate or otherwise.

We’ve seen the Commerce Commission, the regulator in this space, take more actions this year against retailers which continually break the rules. Mobile trucks have been an extreme example. But the commission’s list of common offenders often includes the big box retailers. These are companies you would expect to have good knowledge of their obligations to customers.

You can see for yourself. Next time you’re in The Warehouse, Noel Leeming or Harvey Norman, ask a staffer what the retailer’s policy is regarding returns on faulty goods. What they should say is you are entitled to a replacement, refund or repair. And if it’s not serious it’s up to the retailer to decide. Hopefully that’s what you will hear — but sadly I doubt it.

This is all by way of saying be assertive while you’re shopping over this summer period. Question stuff you don’t think sounds right, don’t buy an extended warranty and have fun.

It’s a special time of year. Don’t let a bad experience with a retailer (or service provider) beat you. If in doubt, check out the consumer rights information available on our website for free.

About the author:

Sue Chetwin has been our Chief Executive since April 2007 after more than 25 years in print journalism. She was formerly the Editor of Sunday News, Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday.

Sue oversees all of Consumer’s operations and is also the public face of the organisation. Sue is a director of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme and a member of the Electricity Authority Retail Advisory group.

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