If a product or service breaks or isn't fit for purpose, ask for a repair, replacement or refund.
The likelihood of getting one of these remedies depends on:
- what types of products or services you bought, and their uses
- what the seller told you about the product or service
- how you paid
- if you bought them from a business or privately.
Repair damage after normal use
Repairs, replacements and refunds are known as remedies. You can ask for a remedy under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) for any consumer product or service that you are not happy with.
Consumer products are things bought from a business for personal or household use.
You should be able to get a repair, replacement or refund if:
- products or services don’t do what they are meant to, or are defective
- products or services are different from their description, eg on packaging or in advertising
- products don’t match the sample or model you were shown
- products or services are not reasonably fit for a particular purpose you told the seller about
- the retailer did not have the right to sell the product
- delivery is late or never arrives, or products are damaged in transit.
If you bought online from an overseas seller, your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act and Fair Trading Act might still apply but it can be difficult to enforce them and resolve issues.
The Consumer Guarantees Act doesn't cover commercial products, real estate, or private sales, eg garage sales, school galas or buying second-hand from private sellers (not traders) on sites like TradeMe.
Consumer Guarantees Act
Private sales and second-hand goods
Shops are not legally required to give you a refund or replacement if you have just changed your mind.
Change of mind
Businesses should not say they don't give refunds, or put conditions to refunds, eg set time frames. This could break the Fair Trading Act, by misleading you on your CGA rights.
Your oligations as a business(external link) — Commerce Commission
If things go wrong
Speak to the retailer or supplier as soon as you discover a problem. Explain what the problem is and how you would like it to be resolved. If it's a fairly minor problem, the supplier can choose whether to have the goods repaired or replace them. If the problem is substantial, you can refuse a repair and request a replacement or a refund. You should take your proof of purchase with you, eg your receipt or bank statement, or the contract for services.
How to complain
If you can’t resolve your issue directly with the business, the Disputes Tribunal or District Court may be your next step.
Get support at any point from:
- Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) – this is 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 – this service 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.
A CAB near you(external link) – Citizens Advice Bureau
Our law centres(external link) – Community Law Centres
Example — Change of mind
Roha buys a jacket from a shop. When she got home, she decided she didn't really like it. She went back to the shop the next day to ask for a refund. The shop assistant refused, saying that their returns policy stated they did not refund for change of mind. Roha kept the jacket.
Example — Pay postage for returns
James bought a pair of running shoes online. The website's delivery information said he should receive the shoes in three to five days. Three weeks and several phone calls later, the shoes finally arrived. James had become sick of waiting and bought shoes elsewhere. He returned the shoes to get a refund because of late delivery. He had to cover the cost of postage, as under the Consumer Guarantees Act, it's the buyer's responsibility to return an item — unless doing so is particularly difficult or expensive.
Example — Free repair after poor service
Natalie hired Grant, a local tradie, to build a fence around her front garden. It wasn't quite level in places, but she was happy enough with the job to not mention it. Several months later, a number of nails had come loose. Natalie contacted Grant to complain about poor workmanship. Grant agreed the work had not been carried out with reasonable care and skill — an assistant he'd since fired had worked on those portions of the fence. Grant repaired the fence free of charge.
Home renovation and repair: Dealing with disputes