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You’ve probably seen ads on TV or in magazines promoting a prescription medicine and suggesting you ask your doctor if it’s right for you. The ads promote medicines for a range of conditions from asthma to diabetes and high cholesterol.
New Zealand and the US are the only two countries in the developed world that allow direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription medicines. Ads sell the promise of a quick fix, but we don’t think they provide all the facts needed for consumers to make an informed choice. Ads also put pressure on doctors to prescribe medications.
Our latest survey found the majority of Kiwis want the ads to go. The Ministry of Health has been consulting on whether the law should continue to allow medicine advertising. We’ve submitted in favour of a ban and we’ll be providing the results of our latest research to the ministry and Minister of Health David Clark.
We’ve been calling for an overhaul of insurance law to give consumers better protection. A long-awaited review of the law has been announced by Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi, who agrees there are significant problems that need to be fixed.
Insurance policies remain largely excluded from the ban on unfair terms that applies to other consumer contracts. Unfair terms include those that give the company rights to make wholesale changes to your cover or penalise you for cancelling the contract.
Disclosure is another major issue. When you take out or renew an insurance policy, you have to tell the insurer any “material facts” that could influence its decision to insure you or the terms of your cover. If you fail to disclose something the insurer deems material, it can cancel your policy and refuse your claim.
We’re proposing simple changes that will help ensure consumers get a fair deal.
More consumers are now stuck in the rental market as escalating prices make home ownership a dream. It’s no secret the quality of rental properties can leave a lot to be desired. But our survey found there’s a much higher chance you’ll get a bad deal if you rent through a property management company.
We’ve previously reported on problems in this industry, which has attracted complaints from both renters and landlords for sub-par service and failing to get to grips with the basics of tenancy law. But it’s so far escaped regulation. Anyone can set up shop as a property manager, no qualifications required.
Without changes to tenancy law, the problems identified in our survey are likely to grow as more consumers are locked out of home ownership. Based on our investigation, we’ve identified 4 changes that must be included in any law reform to ensure adequate protection for renters.
Hundreds of consumers are being ripped off by ticket resale sites like Viagogo and Ticketmaster Resale. Our investigation with Australian consumer group Choice identified inflated prices, hidden fees and misleading sales tactics as major problems in the ticket resale market.
Across the Tasman, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already filed charges against Viagogo, alleging it’s misled consumers by failing to clearly state it’s a ticket reseller, making dubious claims tickets are “selling fast”, and failing to publish accurate price and ticket details.
There’s a legitimate reason for the resale market to exist. However, current practices mean the market isn’t fair and consumers are being misled. In our view, these practices also breach the Fair Trading Act. We’ve called for the Commerce Commission to take action against Viagogo and any other reseller that’s not playing by the rules.
You see an ad for a ticket to a concert or a holiday to Oz and reasonably expect the price shown is what you’ll pay. But when you go to make your purchase, you find extra “booking” or other fees mean you’re shelling out more than expected.
These sneaky fees can add anything from $5 to more than $50 to the advertised price. All up, consumers are paying millions. We estimate retailers could be earning $68 million each year from fees charged on top of the headline price.
Our latest survey found more than two-thirds of consumers have been stung by these fees. So we want to see them gone. We’re calling for all-inclusive pricing rules to make companies disclose the full purchase price upfront. You can help by signing our petition.
71% of Kiwis want mandatory country of origin labelling for fruit and vegetables. It’s a clear message to parliament the law needs to change.
Seven out of 10 consumers agree buying New Zealand-grown produce is important to them and want to know where their fruit and veges come from, our joint survey with Horticulture New Zealand has found.
Survey results also confirm the existing voluntary approach to labelling isn’t giving consumers the facts they need to make informed choices.
We’re calling for political parties to support the Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill, a private member’s bill put forward by Green MP Steffan Browning. We support the bill because we believe consumers have a right to know where their food comes from.
Modern medicine has given us more ways than ever to diagnose and treat illness. But there’s mounting evidence more tests and procedures don’t always equal better care. Sometimes, the best option may be to do nothing.
The potential harm to consumers from unnecessary medical tests and treatments is the trigger for Choosing Wisely, a campaign launched this month by the Council of Medical Colleges (CMC) in partnership with us and the Health Quality & Safety Commission.
The campaign already operates in Australia, Canada, the UK and US. It aims to help consumers make more informed choices about healthcare, focusing on treatments evidence shows provide little or no benefit and could cause harm – as well as waste time and money better spent on improving healthcare elsewhere.
Our latest survey found one in five gift card recipients had been left empty-handed after the card expired before they could redeem its full value. Based on the typical gift card value, we estimate consumers could be losing $10 million annually.
Gift card expiry dates have been given the boot elsewhere. Most Canadian provinces have banned expiry dates. Ireland is planning to follow. Gift cards in the US are required to have an expiry date of at least five years.
The majority of Kiwi consumers want the rules changed here too, so we’re calling on retailers to put an end to unfair expiry dates. You can support our campaign by adding your name to our list of supporters, or by using our email template to contact retailers.
Our Do Not Knock campaign continues to targeting door-to-door traders. We’ve distributed more than 400,000 Do Not Knock stickers to households that want to warn these traders not to knock. Some were sent with electricity bills through a partnership with Genesis Energy. Others were distributed through Consumer Trusted business Resene Colorshop. People can also Consumer directly.
We’ve also investigated mobile truck shops that sell goods on credit door-to-door. These traders often advertise products as “interest free” but the goods they sell are hugely overpriced and extra “administration” fees can add significantly to the amount customers pay. We’re continuing to campaign for door-to-door selling rules to be strengthened to give consumers better protection from these traders.
17 March 2015 marked the start of a long-awaited ban on unfair terms in consumer contracts, one of the most significant changes to consumer law in the past 20 years. To coincide with the law change, we launched our Play Fair campaign to put the heat on companies continuing to use unfair terms.
Through the campaign, we’ve highlighted unfair terms lurking in electricity and gym membership contracts. We’ve also looked at unfair terms in residential tenancy agreements and lodged complaints with the Commerce Commission when companies have failed to change their contracts.
We launched our Ditch the Ticks campaign in May 2015, calling on budget airline Jetstar to stop pre-ticking boxes for optional services. On a return flight from Wellington to Auckland, the airline’s charges for pre-ticked travel insurance, seat selection and extra luggage added more than $40 to the fare.
Consumer members got behind the campaign, writing to Jetstar’s chief executive asking the company to ditch the ticks. Our member survey also found 93% of respondents wanted the airline to stop the practice, which risked misleading people into paying for services they didn’t need or want. Jetstar eventually backed down in early 2016 and agreed to ditch the ticks, following an investigation by the Commerce Commission.