What can you do if a moving company or courier loses or damages your possessions, or they are late? We explain your rights under the Carriage of Goods Act and the Consumer Guarantees Act.

Carriage of Goods Act

If you hire a company to move furniture, send a parcel by courier or check in your luggage with an airline, you're covered by the Carriage of Goods Act 1979. The Act gives you certain rights to compensation for loss or damage, though any contract you sign might limit those rights.

Loss or damage

The Carriage of Goods Act 1979 gives you certain rights to compensation for loss or damage.
The Carriage of Goods Act 1979 gives you certain rights to compensation for loss or damage.

If you don't have a written contract with the carrier, your goods will be carried at "limited carrier's risk". This means the carrier is liable for any unintentional loss or damage up to $2000 for each separate item. This limit applies from 17 June 2014 (for contracts before that date, the limit is $1500).

If you have a written contract, signed by you, it should specify the type of liability arrangement - either "limited carrier's risk", or one of these 3 options:

  • If the goods are carried "at owner's risk", the carrier is not liable for any unintentional loss or damage.
  • For goods carried "at declared value risk", the carrier is liable for loss or damage up to an amount you agree. This amount must be specified in the contract.
  • If the goods are carried "on declared terms", the carrier and the customer are free to negotiate all the terms of the contract as they wish. This arrangement will usually be used only by businesses.

There is an exception for intentional damage. If the carrier or an employee intentionally damage or harm your goods, they're liable for the full cost no matter what type of contract you have.

There is also an exception for mail. Letters with postage of 80 cents or less are covered by the Postal Services Act 1998, and there is no right to compensation if they are lost or damaged, or arrive late.

Making a claim

Under the Carriage of Goods Act, you have 30 days to make a claim. However, the carrier's contract may specify a different period - in some cases just a few days. The carrier is free to do this, so it pays to check when you sign the contract.

If you can't resolve the problem with the carrier, you may be able to take a claim to the Disputes Tribunal.

Insurance

Most carriers will only take goods at the owner's risk - so it's important you make arrangements for insurance, either through the carrier, or directly with an insurer.

Standard contents policies don't cover your goods during removals by a third party, so you'll need extra cover when you're moving house. Shop around - for moves within New Zealand you can expect to pay between 1 and 2 percent of the value of the insured goods.

Regardless of how you buy the insurance, make sure you check the policy carefully in advance.

  • Find out whether you're getting "replacement" or "indemnity" cover.
  • Check for exclusions - for example, some policies limit or exclude cover if you pack your own goods rather than using the professionals. You may be able to pay top-up insurance to cover exclusions.
  • Check the excess. A higher excess could result in a lower premium.

Make a list of all the goods to be moved and their value. The value you use will depend on whether you have replacement or indemnity cover.

Remember, most policies don't cover cash and valuable documents. See our report on House and contents insurance for more advice on how to keep your possessions covered in transit.

Consumer Guarantees Act

While the Carriage of Goods Act covers loss or damage to goods while in a carrier's care, the Consumer Guarantees Act will still provide protection against other types of loss if a carrier fails to carry out their service with reasonable care and skill. For example, if movers back their truck into your car while collecting your goods, they will be liable under the Consumer Guarantees Act for the cost of repairs.

You also have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act when a retailer agrees to deliver goods you’ve bought from it. The retailer has to make sure the goods get to you on time. If you haven’t agreed on a specific delivery time, then delivery has to be within a reasonable time.

What happens if the goods don’t arrive on time? You’re entitled to claim compensation for any losses you incur as a result of the delay. You’re also entitled to reject the product and claim a refund if the failure to get the goods to you is substantial.

The CGA also makes it clear the retailer has to put things right when the goods arrive damaged. They can’t just blame the courier. It’s the retailer’s responsibility to provide a remedy: you don’t have to fight it out with the courier company.

If you receive something in damaged condition, complain to the company that sent it to you. Insist that they sort it out.