Heading into the most popular purchasing season of the year means it is the perfect time for a refresher on your consumer exchange rights.

The Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 sets out the law around returns where a product is faulty or does not perform as advertised. However, it does not provide for the return of goods you simply "don't like" or "don't want". Ultimately this is determined by the return policy of the store you have purchased the product from.

Around the Christmas season returns increase significantly, both from the original purchaser, and the receiver of gifts.

What are your rights in this situation?

Stores are not obliged to accept goods for return or exchange on the basis that you changed your mind or did not like them. Only where the minimum standards prescribed by the Consumer Guarantees Act are breached are stores required to offer refunds. Such breaches occur where:

  • A consumer product is faulty;
  • A product breaks or is unsafe;
  • A product does not match its description or sample;
  • A product is not fit for its normal purpose.

Despite this, most stores have a goodwill policy that extends further than this legal duty. Most commonly, stores will allow for an instore exchange or store credit, although it is uncommon for refunds to be granted where a complaint does not fall under the Consumer Guarantees Act. 

The situation is slightly more complicated with online purchases. While brick and mortar stores tend to have a straightforward solution in regards to returns, it becomes more complex when purchasing online. Return policies may differ depending on the country in which the website is based. In addition, extra policies regarding who is responsible for freight fees, re-delivery and re- packaging may apply. Therefore, although a website may accept returns, the cost of doing so may outweigh the purchase price. It is also important to remember the Consumer Guarantees Act only applies to sellers "in trade" who are based in New Zealand. Therefore, it does not cover any private online purchases from an individual, e.g via a site such as Trade Me.

So in short, choose carefully. Stores and online retailers have no obligation to exchange unwanted gifts, which is probably why more than 4,500 unwanted gifts were listed on Trade Me on boxing day 2015.

To learn more about your consumer rights generally, check out


Written by Alexia Grindle at 00:00




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