Heading into the most popular purchasing season of the year
means it is the perfect time for a refresher on your consumer
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
To learn more about your consumer rights generally, check out consumer.org.nz