What to do when something doesn’t work, breaks easily, or doesn’t do what you expected it to.

If a business sells you faulty consumer products, you can ask for the problem to be fixed under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). This also applies to new or second-hand products bought through:

  • auctions
  • websites
  • an agent or broker who sells on behalf of someone.

Refund, replacement, repair

Repair damage after normal use

How to complain

Taking a product back

Visual guide: Taking a product back - mobile launcher

Click to see when it's fair to return a product and ask for a remedy. Expand to view larger version

Your rights

The CGA covers you for products that don’t do what they are meant to, or are defective or faulty in some way.

Any products you buy should be of acceptable quality. This means the products should:

  • be satisfactory in look and finish
  • be free from small faults
  • last for a reasonable time
  • be safe to use
  • do everything they are commonly used for.

These factors are used to test whether a reasonable person would think a product is faulty or not, taking into account:

  • who supplied the products, eg an established chain vs flea market trader
  • age and type of products — second-hand products are more likely to show signs of use and may be less durable
  • price — poor-quality products are usually cheaper
  • statements made about quality or condition by the salesperson or in advertising.

If you are specifically told about any faults when you buy the product, you can’t claim because of them later on.

Consumer Guarantees Act

When you can’t claim under the CGA

You can’t claim if:

  • you used the product in a way that a reasonable consumer would not
  • you used the product so much that it is reasonable that it broke
  • you broke or lost the product
  • you modified the product and this is what caused the issue.

If things go wrong

Go back to the retailer or supplier as soon as you discover the fault. Explain what the problem is and how you would like it to be resolved. It's a good idea to take proof of purchase, eg receipt or bank statement, or the contract for services.

It is your responsibility to return a faulty product. But if postage will be expensive or complicated, then the business must pay for it to be collected or posted. Keep your receipts to recover reasonable postage or transportation costs.

A faulty product does not have to be in its original packaging to get a refund.

If once it's checked the product turns out not to be faulty, you may be required to pay the transport or inspection costs. An estimate should be provided to you first, or outlined in the terms and conditions.

How to complain

Next steps

We have industry-specific guidance, eg on electronics and appliances, and cars in our Help by product and service section.

Help by product and service

If you can’t resolve your issue directly with the business, the Disputes Tribunal or District Court may be your next step. Bear in mind, if the seller is overseas it may be harder to enforce any formal decision.

What the tribunal can help with(external link) — Disputes Tribunal

If you think the business has misled you about your consumer rights, you can complain to the Commerce Commission.Commerce Commission doesn't act on behalf of individuals and can't investigate every complaint. But their investigations do help make sure businesses are complying with the law. Your information helps them assess which consumer issues are causing greatest harm.

Make a complaint(external link) — Commerce Commission

More help

Get support at any point from:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) — a free, independent service, run by volunteers. CAB can advise you on your consumer rights and obligations, in person, by phone, or online.
  • Community Law Centre — offers free one-on-one legal advice to people with limited finances. The organisation has 24 community law centres throughout the country. You can find legal information and other resources on its website.

Find a CAB(external link) — Citizens Advice Bureau

Our law centres(external link) — Community Law Centres


Example — Not fit for purpose

Nicholas told a car dealer he needed a car powerful enough to tow his three-tonne boat. When he hooks up his boat trailer at the weekend, he finds the car is not powerful enough. This is a serious breach of the consumer guarantee about goods being fit for a particular purpose. He complains to the dealer — he's entitled to reject the car and ask for his money back.

Example — Exchanging a faulty product

Ann returns a faulty wireless speaker. The retailer offers to replace the product with a newer model that has more features, but is more expensive. An agrees to the new model and pays the difference in price.

Example — Compensation for extra loss

Jack’s washing machine is faulty and floods his house. He misses a movie he was due to see because he needs to clean up the mess. As well as a remedy for the faulty washing machine, Jack can claim compensation for any damage due to the flooding, eg for water-damaged flooring. But he's not entitled to claim the price of his cinema ticket — it was his decision to stay home and miss the film.

Example — Compensation for faulty goods

Sabine buys a chest freezer for her garage. A month later she discovers the freezer has broken down. All the food in it has thawed and gone rotten. A repairer confirms there was a fault with the freezer. Sabine goes back to the store and gets a refund. She is also entitled to compensation to cover the cost of the spoiled food.