Your consumer rights if there's a problem with a product or service you bought.
Consumer rights and your guarantees
The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) protects consumers by, among other things:
- allowing them to seek repairs, replacements or refunds when goods are faulty
- setting minimum guarantees that apply to all products and services.
Everyone from garden store owners to electricians have to meet their responsibilities under the CGA. This means if you have a problem with a product or service, you can do something about it.
Visual guide: 8 of your consumer guarantees
Click to see a summary of your rights when buying products and services. Expand to view larger version
Consumer Guarantees Act(external link) — Legislation.govt.nz
Consumer guarantees for products
You may be covered by the CGA when you buy consumer products (items usually for personal or household use) but find they:
- don't work
- break too easily
- don't do what you expected them to do.
The CGA applies to new or second-hand goods supplied by businesses within New Zealand. This includes all kinds of personal property, including software, animals, plants and minerals.
Products not covered by the CGA
The CGA does not apply to:
- commercial products — goods normally bought for business use, eg farm machinery, or work normally carried out for a business, including for resupply in trade or to produce, manufacture or repair other products in trade
- buildings or parts of buildings attached to land for residential accommodation.
- products donated by a charity for your benefit
- private sales — when you buy from someone not in trade, eg private sellers online and garage sale
- products bought by auction or competitive tender (including those bid for online) before 17 June 2014.
Businesses can agree in writing that the CGA doesn't apply if personal or household products are bought for business use, eg a vacuum cleaner for use in a shop.
Your rights when buying products
Both new and second-hand consumer products must meet the guarantees of:
This means that products must be:
- fit for their normal purposes
- acceptable in finish and appearance
- free from minor defects
This is based on whether a reasonable consumer would find the products acceptable taking into account:
- the nature or type of products, eg second-hand products are more likely to show signs of use and may be less durable than new products
- the price paid — products that are expensive are expected to be of better quality than products that are very cheap
- any information on the products, in advertising or in the packaging
- any statement the retailer or supplier made about the products including their history, quality or condition
- the nature of the trader and how the products were supplied, eg products bought from an online auction might be expected to be lower quality than those bought in a shop
- all other relevant circumstances, eg how soon they developed a problem after purchase.
If the retailer or manufacturer arranges for the products to be delivered to you, the products must be of acceptable quality when you receive them.
Refund, replacement, repair
Repair damage after normal use
Fit for a particular purpose
Products must be fit for a particular or special purpose that:
- you asked the trader about, and/or
- they told you the products were suitable for.
This guarantee doesn't apply if you don't act on the supplier's advice.
Claims that retailers or manufacturers make about what products can do may also be covered by this guarantee.
Match description, sample or demonstration model
Many products are sold with a description. The products you receive must be the same as the description in a catalogue, online, or on packaging and labels. The products that you buy must be the same as any sample or demonstration model shown by the trader.
This guarantee only applies when there has been no agreement about the price and the products have not yet been paid for. Usually the price is agreed in advance — either on a price tag or on a sign displayed with the products, or at the checkout. But if not, you only have to pay a reasonable price (ie what other traders charge for the same or similar products).
If you think the price is unreasonable but you pay it without disputing it at the time, the law says you have agreed to the price and can’t dispute it (affirmation).
Right to sell the products
The retailer or trader should be able to pass all the ownership rights or title in the products to you.
This means they guarantee:
- they have the right to sell the products
- no other person has a claim or right over those products,
- you have the right to undisturbed possession of the products — eg the products can’t be repossessed by a finance company if they have a registered security interest on those products.
- you buy consumer products on credit. The finance company may repossess products under certain conditions, eg payments not being made and you have been told that repossession is a possibility and given a copy of this in writing.
- you didn’t pay the full price for the products at the time you bought them, and before you bought the products:
- you were told about the possibility of the products being taken off you if you do not pay the balance within a certain time, and
- you were given a copy, or the relevant part of a document telling you about this (Romalpa clause).
Traders can still sell second-hand products with a registered security interest (eg they sell you a car that they're still paying off with a finance company), but they must disclose this to you before you buy.
Loans and credit
Products arrive on time and in good condition
Products must be of acceptable quality when you receive them. If products arrived damaged you can claim a remedy (eg repair or replacement) from the trader.
The delivery must also:
- arrive on time
- within the agreed period
- within a reasonable time if no delivery time is agreed.
If products are very late, or arrive far later than the agreed period, you can reject them.
Spare parts and repair facilities available
Manufacturers and importers can meet this guarantee by:
- supplying parts and services themselves
- making sure that parts and services are available through other traders.
Manufacturers or importers can legally opt out of this guarantee by giving you notice that spare parts and repairs will not be available or will be limited.
This guarantee only applies to the first person to buy the products in New Zealand. This means that the guarantee only applies to new products and to the first purchaser of imported second-hand products.
Repair damage after normal use
The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) gives you the right to seek a remedy, eg a repair or a replacement, from the manufacturer whether or not the products come with a manufacturer’s warranty (called an “express guarantee” in the Act).
Manufacturers do not have to provide a written warranty with their products. However, if they choose to do so, the Act says they must meet their obligations under that warranty. The CGA still applies whether or not a manufacturer's warranty has expired.
Consumer guarantees for services
When a business supplies you with consumer services, eg household plumbing, a haircut, or fixing your car, four consumer guarantees apply under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA).
Services include any rights, benefits or facilities provided by a supplier, even if they do so free of charge or you don’t have a contract with the supplier.
The CGA also specifies a wide range of contracts that are services, eg:
- contracts for the performance of work
- contracts of insurance
- banking contracts
- care or service of others or animals
- supply of electricity, telecommunications, gas, water and removal of wastewater.
Services not covered by the CGA
The CGA does not apply to:
- commercial services — services normally bought for business use or work normally carried out for a business
- private sales — when you buy from someone who is not in trade
- the performance of work under an employment contract (contracts of service)
- work done by a charity for your benefit.
Businesses can agree in writing that the CGA doesn't apply if personal or household services are bought for business use, eg carpet cleaning in a shop.
Your rights when buying services
All consumer services must be:
Carried out with reasonable care and skill
This generally means that any work done must be at least as good as the work of a competent person with average skills and experience for that type of work.
Reasonable skill is about applying technical know-how. Reasonable care is how much care is taken to do the job properly.
Fit for a particular purpose you told the seller about
When you’ve told the service provider what work you want them to do and they accept the job, they must make sure you get what you want.
If the service provider can’t guarantee the work they’ll do will give you the result you want, they have to tell you before they start the job. But they can’t simply get out of their responsibilities by warning you that the job may not be satisfactory if they are inexperienced in that trade.
If they used reasonable skill and care but the work doesn't meet your expectations because you weren't clear about what you wanted, the trader may not be responsible.
When you are given a choice of options for the work at different prices, if you take the lowest price option it may be less fit for purpose. It is reasonable that you may have lower expectations due to the cheaper cost.
Sometimes it may not be appropriate for you to rely on discussions with an employee of that service provider, eg the receptionist in a large service company. Where possible, make sure you speak to the person who's doing the work, or who's responsible for making sure you get what you've asked for.
If you insist on a service that the supplier tells you won’t give the result you want, you might not be able to rely on the ‘fit for purpose’ or ‘reasonable care and skill’ guarantees.
Carried out within a reasonable time if no timeframe agreed
If you and the service provider haven’t agreed on a time to finish a job, the provider must do so within a reasonable time. Reasonable time is judged on the time it takes a competent person who works in that type of job to complete the task.
Charged for at a reasonable price when the price is not set
If you and the service provider haven’t agreed a price for the job, you only have to pay a reasonable price. You can work out what a reasonable price is by finding out what other providers in your area are charging for similar services.
Consumer guarantees for gas and electricity services
Under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), consumers have a guarantee of acceptable quality for the supply of electricity and reticulated gas only (piped gas supplied by a retailer).
This guarantee applies instead of the general CGA guarantees that apply to products and services.
Your rights when buying gas and electricity
Consumers are guaranteed an acceptable quality of electricity and gas which includes:
- the supply of electricity or gas must be as safe and reliable as a reasonable consumer would expect it to be
- the quality of gas or electricity supplied must be such that it can be consistently used for things that a reasonable consumer would expect gas or electricity for.
Note: This does not apply to the supply of non-reticulated gas, eg liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) supplied in cylinders.
What factors a reasonable consumer would expect to tolerate within the guarantee of acceptable quality include if:
- the supply is affected by an emergency, or other circumstances, outside the control of the retailer or another person involved in the supply
- safety, maintenance or other technical reasons require it to be interrupted
- location or price affect the reliability and quality of supply
- fluctuations may occur but only if they fall within the permitted tolerances under the gas and electricity safety regulations.
If any of these situations occur although the guarantee has not been breached you can still contact the supplier to query these.
Exceptions to guarantee of acceptable quality
The guarantee of acceptable quality doesn't count if:
- you have used the electricity or gas in an unreasonable manner or to an unreasonable extent, and the supply would otherwise have complied with the guarantee, or
- the quality and reliability of your supply may be much worse than what your retailer normally supplies but this has been explained to you and you have accepted the supply on that basis.
If you haven’t paid your power bill, you usually have about 48 days before your power is disconnected. Before disconnecting you, your power, electricity or gas retailers must:
- make sure disconnection notices include their complaints process, contact details, and any applicable fees
- use a range of contact times and options like calls, texts, faxes, and home visits before disconnecting you
- discuss payment alternatives and liaising with Work and Income
- make sure no one living at the property is medically dependent.
What are my rights for disconnections?(external link) — Electrical Authority
Listen: Your consumer rights
This audio clip outlines your key rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
Transcript — English
When you buy something or pay for a service, there are laws to protect your rights as a consumer.
This means there are certain things you can expect. The Consumer Guarantees Act protects your rights when you buy something from a business in trade, like a shop, or hire someone to carry out a service, like building or catering.
You have many consumer rights, but some are particularly good to be aware of. When you pay for products and services, you can expect them to be safe, of acceptable quality, and free of defects. You can also expect them to be fit for purpose. This means what you paid for needs to do what it’s designed to do — so a kettle should boil water, and a roof should keep the rain out.
If you pay for something that doesn’t work, breaks too easily, or doesn’t do what it is expected to do, you’re entitled to a repair, exchange or sometimes a refund, from the seller or service provider.
The Consumer Guarantees Act only protects you when you buy from businesses in trade in New Zealand — not when you buy something from a private seller or from overseas.
If there’s a problem with something you buy, or a service you pay for, remember there are laws to look after your consumer rights.
Kia mārama ki ō tika kiritaki — audio and transcript in Māori
Malamalama i au aiātatau o se tagata faatau — audio and transcript in Samoan
Mahino‘i ‘o ho‘o ngaahi totonu fakataú — audio and transcript in Tongan
Rights of businesses under the CGA
Businesses who sell products or services have a right to:
- contract out (opt out) of the CGA if the products or services they sell will be used for commercial or business purposes
- choose how to price their products or services
- refuse a consumer’s offer to buy a product or service, eg if it’s the last itemin stock or the service is no longer supplied
- ask questions about and inspect any product or service a consumer says does not meet the CGA guarantees
- decide to repair, replace or refund a product, or fix a problem with a service, if the problem can be fixed – unless it's a serious problem, then you can tell them you want a refund or replacement, or cancel the service
- refuse a refund or any other remedy if a consumer changes their mind about a product or service, or damages the product after the sale
- refuse to fix a problem with a service if the fault was caused by the consumer or events outside of the service provider’s control
- be paid for products or services they sell that meet the CGA guarantees.
Businesses must not:
- knowingly sell faulty products or sub-standard services
- delay if a customer complains — they must not fob you off or put off looking into it
- refuse to deal with complaints about products that arrive damaged after being delivered. If it’s a valid complaint, they should offer a replacement or refund. They can then take it up with the courier, delivery company or insurance company directly so they're not left out of pocket.
Business guidance: Obligations under the CGA
Who is covered by the CGA
The CGA applies to consumers buying things in New Zealand, and businesses selling products or services in New Zealand.
A consumer is anyone who buys products or services that are ordinarily for personal or household use. The ordinary use may change over time, eg computers are now commonly used for personal use.
Organisations and businesses who buy consumer products or services from other businesses are also entitled to protection under the Act, unless the seller has contracted out of the CGA.
The CGA applies to any business providing consumer products or services, including:
- online traders
- finance companies
Online sellers who operate as businesses must make it clear to buyers that they are traders. This includes when selling through an intermediary website like Trade Me.
The CGA applies to consumer products and services supplied by businesses, including if they're:
- received as a gift
- bought on credit
- bought at auction, online, door to door or other types of sales
- hired or leased.
Check you have a case
When the CGA doesn't apply
Consumer guarantees do not apply if you:
- buy products or services privately
- buy commercial products or services, eg industrial machinery and trucks
- buy products for resale or to use in a manufacturing process
- are in business and dealing with another business, and you have a written agreement to contract out of the CGA
- got what you asked for but simply changed your mind
- misused or altered a product in any way that caused the problem, eg not following manufacturer’s instructions for use
- disposed of, lost, destroyed or damaged products after delivery
- knew of or were made aware of paticular faults before you bought the product
- relied on anyone else's advice or conduct that caused the problem other than the service provider or their agent.
Contracting out of the CGA
A retailer or supplier must not tell you the CGA does not apply, or try to get you to sign a contract saying it doesn't apply.
The only exception is where products or services are for a business purpose and:
- you as the buyer and the seller are in trade and agree to this
- the agreement is in writing
- it is fair and reasonable to do so.
A manufacturer can contract out of the spare parts and repair facilities guarantee, but only if consumers are told this in writing before they buy the products.
A business who tries to contract out of the CGA in any other circumstances commits an offence under the Fair Trading Act.
Misleading consumers about their rights(external link) — Commerce Commission
If things go wrong
If you have a faulty product, your first point of call should be with the retailer. Every situation and product is different, but your options should include whether the product:
- can be fixed and the fault is not serious
- is serious or cannot be fixed or the retailer fails or refuses to act
- has caused damage or extra loss (consequential loss).
If you have received a faulty or incomplete service, your first point of call should be with the trader to fix the issues for free. If they fail to fix the problem, you can cancel the contract or get someone else to fix the problem and tell the original trader to cover the cost.
Services are different to products in that you can't return them if they are faulty. The Disputes Tribunal or the courts have additional powers for faulty services to make certain orders if it is just and practicable to do so including:
- transferring any land or personal property as part of the contract
- directing any party to pay any sum that it thinks just to the other party
- directing any party to do or not do something in relation to the other party.
When deciding whether or not to make such an order the CGA sets out various relevant factors such as:
- any benefit or advantage you obtained from the supply of the service
- the value of the services done
- any costs incurred by the supplier
- the extent to which the supplier or you would have been able to perform the contract as a whole
- any other matters it thinks fit.
Common consumer issues