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
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.