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Introduction

Consumer has been testing products for more than 50 years. Now we’re testing businesses as well.

A new age for consumers

The Consumer Trusted Accreditation programme is designed to deliver new standards of customer service and consumer confidence by:

  • assisting businesses to meet their obligations under consumer law
  • leading the way in raising standards
  • inspiring businesses to up their game
  • recognising businesses providing exceptional customer experiences
  • promoting confidence in Consumer Trusted businesses
  • supporting Consumer Trusted businesses to maintain and improve their performance.

The programme is open to any Kiwi retail or service business that can meet its high standards. The standards set out clearly what you can expect from any business as required by law and the extra guarantees you have when dealing with a Consumer Trusted business.

Our advisory service deals with about 4000 complaints and inquiries each year – and that’s just the tip of consumer dissatisfaction. Here at Consumer we’re aiming to do something about it.

Key principles

At the heart of the programme are the 9 key principles of the Consumer NZ Code of Conduct (387 KB). The principles ensure consumers will be able to buy from a Consumer Trusted business safe in the knowledge they’re dealing with a market leader that puts the consumer first.

The 9 key principles are:

  1. Customer service – Exceptional customer service
  2. Returns, refunds and complaints – Putting it right
  3. Online presence – Up-to-date and informative
  4. Contracts – Fair, robust and easy to understand
  5. Pricing and payment – Clear pricing and responsible payment options
  6. Privacy and personal data – Safe and secure
  7. Advertising and promotion – Accurate
  8. Industry standards – Met or exceeded
  9. Over and above the law – Individual business commitment

Businesses are assessed against all the standards under each principle. When all standards are met a business is awarded accreditation. The programme Rules (348 KB) govern how the Code is assessed and compliance monitored.

Maintaining integrity

The accreditation process begins with a business completing an Expression of Interest, which allows Consumer to carry out due diligence on the business.

This includes checking for:

  • compliance advice, warnings or successful prosecutions by the Commerce Commission
  • any disputes Tribunal information about its handling of disputes
  • any feedback from consumers received by our consumer advisory service
  • customer service ratings in any of our customer-satisfaction surveys.

Then the business is further assessed from head office through to retail or service outlets. Consumer Trusted accreditation is for 12 months. During that time they are mystery shopped and we take into account any feedback about the business through our advisory service.

You can comment on the business, too, through our website. All Consumer Trusted businesses are listed in our business directory.

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More than the law

All businesses are required to meet consumer law. This is set out in key legislation – the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), the Fair Trading Act (FTA) and the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA). All Consumer Trusted businesses are required to deliver over and above the law.

To see what you can expect from a Consumer Trusted business, check out the standards in our Code of Conduct (387 KB). Some examples are:

  • Where a business sells products they also manufacture, they must tell you and maintain the integrity of the advice they provide to you.

  • All voluntary industry codes and any technical and professional industry standards must be met.

  • Customers who change their mind about a product can exchange or return it for a full refund within a set period of time (for example 30 days) provided goods are non-perishable and returned in as new condition. Exceptions are noted in the refund policy.

We also ask Consumer Trusted businesses to nominate other areas in which they will commit to go above the law as a Consumer Trusted business. Some examples are:

  • Warranties on replacement products run from the date of replacement, not from the original purchase date.

  • A price guarantee is in place for goods purchased over $100. If the same item goes on sale within a certain period, the sale price will be matched and a refund for the difference given.

Why businesses apply to become Consumer Trusted

All business with Consumer Trusted accreditation are listed in our business directory. Here’s why some of them applied for accreditation.

Shoe Clinic

“We’ve always admired the care taken by the Consumer journalistic team to get the facts right and to produce well-researched information. When Consumer Trusted was introduced to us, it was easy to understand this same philosophy would apply to the programme and that we should get involved. We see being assessed and accredited with Consumer NZ as a natural fit for us at Shoe Clinic because we share the same focus – and that’s all about giving the right advice. Being part of Consumer Trusted means customers will know our stores are focused on quality and that we deliver outcomes beyond the normal retail experience.”

WooHoo – NZ Tax Refunds

“We’re thrilled with receiving Consumer Trusted accreditation, which gives consumers confidence that our standards of service are second to none. It is independent proof that consumers can trust WooHoo as New Zealand’s preferred and fastest-paying tax refund company.”

What about Consumer’s independence?

Our independence is what sets us apart from other organisations. We select products for testing based on market research and we buy products from stores just like consumers do. Consumer Trusted businesses have no involvement in our testing programme.

The accreditation process is extremely robust. An Expression of Interest has to be accepted before a business can progress to the assessment stage. Any standards not met at assessment have to be addressed and met within 3 months of the assessment for accreditation to be awarded.

If problems emerge once a business is accredited, they are given the opportunity to fix these within strict timelines.

We have the right to withdraw a Consumer Trusted accreditation where there’s evidence of non-compliance with our Code of Conduct and won’t hesitate to do so.

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What if something goes wrong?

The programme is designed to guarantee you fair outcomes but occasionally things go wrong. Any customer of a Consumer Trusted business is able to use our Advisory service for advice regarding an issue or to make a complaint about that business.

We’ll provide you advice about your rights under relevant consumer law and on how to present your issue to the business. If a satisfactory solution is not reached and we believe your rights under relevant consumer law are not being provided for we’ll provide advice on your options.

Where standards in our Code of Conduct might be breached, we’ll talk with the business about this. If there’s evidence of non-compliance the business will be given the opportunity to fix this within strict timelines. If this does not occur we have the right to withdraw a Consumer Trusted accreditation and won’t hesitate to do so.

All Consumer Trusted businesses must belong a Consumer NZ approved Disputes Resolution Scheme.

FAQs for consumers

Consumer has been testing products for more than 50 years, helping you to make informed buying decisions. We’re extending that to retail and service providers by assessing businesses against our own Code of Conduct (387 KB). The programme Rules (348 KB) govern how the code is assessed and compliance monitored. Assessments are carried out annually and include on-going review by mystery shoppers and feedback received via the Consumer NZ advisory service.

The Consumer Trusted programme was developed ultimately to advance the interests of all Kiwi consumers by:

  • assisting in choosing best practice retail and service providers
  • providing confidence when dealing with accredited businesses
  • leading the way in raising standards
  • recognising retail and service businesses with standout business practices
  • inspiring businesses to go beyond the minimum requirements of consumer law

Research conducted with Consumer members and consumers indicated widespread support for the programme. The research showed consumers want to be able to make the best choice for them, be able to buy with confidence and get more value for money.

We currently help members make the best choice for them and buy with confidence by providing product information, carrying out research and testing and recommending products. We want to be of even more value to our members.

By accrediting New Zealand businesses we can provide more information to help consumers buy with confidence.

Members are invited to share feedback on any of our Trusted businesses.

Businesses pay a fee to be assessed against the Consumer Trusted Code of Conduct. The fee includes pre-assessment, head office, site and communication centre assessment plus mystery shopping.

Should accreditation be awarded businesses pay a non-exclusive 12-month licence fee to use the Consumer Trusted brandmark in their marketing and promotion activity.

Assessment and Licence Fees are variable based on assessment requirements and business turnover. An indication of fees is as follows.

Large retail/service provider approximately $30000
Medium retail/service provider approximately $20000
Small retail/service provider approximately $15000

Our independence is what sets us apart from other organisations. We select products for testing based on market research and we buy products from stores just like Consumers do. Consumer Trusted businesses have no involvement in our testing programme. Consumer Trusted businesses must meet our Code of Conduct (387 KB) criteria.

Our work is funded by member fees, our endorsement programmes, the Consumer Trusted accreditation programme and contract work, mostly with government departments. All revenue from the Consumer Trusted accreditation programme is used to increase the scope of product testing, advocacy and investigative work.

In the first instance a business must meet and comply with the Consumer NZ Code of Conduct (387 KB).

The programme Rules (348 KB) govern how the Code is assessed and compliance monitored. This includes annual head office, retail site and communication centre assessments, on-going review by mystery shoppers and feedback received through our advisory service.

The accreditation programme is designed to guarantee you fair outcomes but occasionally things go wrong. Any customer of a Consumer Trusted business is able to use our advisory service for advice regarding an issue with the business or to make a complaint about the business. If you’re not currently a member, all you need to do is register as a Bronze member – this is completely free. You can then use the Request for advice form or call us on 0800 266 786.

Members can also share feedback on any of our Trusted businesses.

Consumer NZ reserves the right to withdraw accreditation from a Consumer Trusted business where there is evidence of non-compliance with the Code of Conduct (387 KB). Processes for termination of accreditation are outlined in the programme Rules (348 KB).

The accreditation application and assessment process begins with businesses submitting an Expression of Interest, ensuring Consumer NZ can complete due diligence on each application. This includes a review of any breaches of the Fair Trading Act, actions or warnings from the Commerce Commission, Disputes Tribunal hearings and our internal advisory service records. If an Expression of Interest is accepted businesses are required to complete a self-assessment against the Code of Conduct before any further assessment begins.

At this time the Code of Conduct is focused on consumer law – the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act. Human Resource policies and environmental standards are covered under other laws and regulations currently beyond the scope of this programme. However, as the programme grows we will be looking to add further features.

If you have any comments you would like to share on this, email us at info@consumer.org.nz or use our feedback form.

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More information for businesses

Our Consumer Trusted accreditation programme will deliver new standards of customer service and consumer confidence. We have more information on the programme for businesses interested in becoming Consumer Trusted.

Learn more