Know your rights as a cus­tomer

What can you do when things go wrong and the items you buy aren’t up to scratch, asks

The Invercargill Eye - - BACKYARD BANTER - ‘‘Rea­son­able’’ and ‘‘ac­cept­able’’: De­liv­ery time­frames: Pay­ing for goods and ser­vices: Busi­nesses should be le­git: No re­funds: Christ­mas ex­changes:

It prob­a­bly goes with­out say­ing, but when you pay for some­thing, you ex­pect it to do what you paid it to do. A new jacket shouldn’t lose an arm three days after you bought it. A tin of tuna shouldn’t be off be­fore you open it. And you shouldn’t have to wait 17 weeks to re­ceive that new pair of ‘‘pleather’’ boots you or­dered on­line, when they said you’d re­ceive them in eight days (and when they said they were real leather).

When your pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions don’t go to plan, what rights do you have? Thanks to the Con­sumer Guar­an­tees Act (CGA), quite a few. But pur­chasers be­ware: the Act can be quite grey. Here’s some clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

The Act states things like ‘‘goods should be of ac­cept­able qual­ity’’ and ‘‘be a rea­son­able price’’. What’s ‘‘rea­son­able’’ and ‘‘ac­cept­able’’ is de­ter­mined by what the av­er­age con­sumer would think is ac­cept­able. Con­text is im­por­tant too, so a pair of sports-spe­cific shoes would have to meet a higher stan­dard than a pair of baby shoes. If a de­fect was pointed out to you be­fore you bought the goods, then you de­cided it wasn’t ac­cept­able, sorry, but that’s your loss. Where the sup­plier is re­spon­si­ble for de­liv­ery, the CGA states that goods should be de­liv­ered on time or within a rea­son­able time­frame when it’s not spec­i­fied. You’re cov­ered if you pur­chase some­thing on­line from a New Zealand store, but not if it’s over­seas.

‘‘Goods’’ refers to new and sec­ond­hand things or­di­nar­ily pur­chased for per­sonal, do­mes­tic or house­hold use. ‘‘Ser­vices’’ cov­ers things car­ried out by trades­peo­ple and pro­fes­sion­als, in­clud­ing re­pairs and hir­ing goods. Gifts are cov­ered too, so if the lamp you got given for Christ­mas was bro­ken when you got it, you’ve still got rights.

Make sure busi­nesses you deal with are ‘‘in trade’’. If you pur­chase some­thing on a trad­ing or deals web­site, try to in­spect it be­fore you hit ‘‘Buy’’ be­cause the Act doesn’t cover pri­vate sales (al­though you might be cov­ered by the Con­trac­tual Reme­dies Act 1979, the Sale of Goods Act 1908 or at com­mon law).

If you see such a sign in a win­dow don’t worry; you still have full rights un­der the Act – ex­cept if it’s used for busi­ness use, like a com­puter or mo­bile phone. If a re­tailer has ex­cep­tions to the reg­u­lar terms of sales like ‘‘no re­funds’’ (like in liq­ui­da­tion sales), the new terms must be stated at the time of sale, not after­wards.

The fes­tive sea­son can be tricky when it comes to re­turn­ing or ex­chang­ing goods, be­cause if you change your mind about a gift or the re­cip­i­ent doesn’t like or want it, the re­tailer doesn’t have to re­fund or ex­change it. Re­mem­ber, though; one man’s trash is an­other man’s trea­sure, so if you can’t re­turn or ex­change a gift, sell it on Neigh­bourly.

For more in­for­ma­tion about your rights when it comes to pay­ing for goods and ser­vices, Google Con­sumer Guar­an­tees Act.


All goods should be of ac­cept­able qual­ity and be a rea­son­able price.

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