Consumer information during the current COVID-19 Alert Level in New Zealand. This includes how businesses can operate, financial difficulties, travel and accommodation and cancellations.

For general information on COVID-19, visit the government's COVID-19 website:

Unite for the Recovery(external link)

Price rises and COVID-19

It is not illegal for businesses to increase their prices, however, the Fair Trading Act prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct and false representations. This means that if a business gives a reason for a price increase it must be true, otherwise the business risks breaching the law.

If you suspect a business is providing false or misleading information as to why prices have increased, you can make a complaint to the Commerce Commission on their website:

Make a complaint(external link)  — Commerce Commission

While businesses are free to set their own prices, there has been some public concern about price increases on essential goods and services at this time.

If you feel you’re being asked to pay too much for goods or services:

  • Speak politely with the retailer. Ask the reason for the price increase. Check it isn’t a mistake.
  • Remember that fresh produce prices may be affected by crop availability and season, or that there may be high demand for certain products. There may also be additional costs associated with providing goods and services at this time, such as costs for decontamination or the use of special PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).  

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is interested in hearing from consumers if you have concerns about price increases on essential goods and services.

Report a price increase(external link) — Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Information for businesses


Buying products

All businesses can open at this alert level if they can do so safely. Businesses should help people keep track of their movements by displaying the Ministry of Health QR code for contact tracing.

Alert Level 1(external link) — Unite for the Recovery

General information on your consumer rights:

Online shopping

If you are concerned about price increases on essential goods and services during this alert level, you can report it to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Report a price increase(external link) – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

More on increasing prices during COVID-19


Financial support

If you are finding it hard to pay your bills or loan payments, there are several things you can do.

Financial support(external link) — Unite for the Recovery

Loans and debt

If you have an existing loan, find out what you can do to make repaying more manageable. Contact your lender to:

  • explain your situation
  • ask about your options
  • understand the impact of any repayment changes.

For example, repayment deferral lets you delay making payments but interest will continue to be added to your loan. This means your loan will cost more and take longer to pay off in the long run. Keep repayment deferral as short as possible. Reducing loan payments or choosing to pay interest only may be better than putting them on hold.

It may take a while for you to get through to the lender, as banks and finance companies may be busier than usual. Banks and major lenders have information about COVID-19 on their websites.

Emergency no-interest loans

Good Shepherd New Zealand provides loans for people financially impacted by COVID-19 who need urgent help to:

  • pay bills, eg electricity
  • pay existing loan repayments
  • buy essential products or services — examples include to replace a broken fridge or pay for urgent home repairs.

These loans are only available to people with a Community Services Card, and who meet some other eligibility criteria. These loans can also be made available to people on work visas.

Good loans(external link) — Good Shepherd New Zealand

Power bills

If you are finding it hard to pay your bill, speak to your power company. You may be able to pay your bill in instalments to make payment easier. If you are worried about being disconnected talk to your power company, as some are offering more flexibility during this time.

If you receive payments from Work and Income, you may get the Winter Energy Payment. This is an extra payment to help with the cost of heating your home. Winter Energy Payments will be double this year in response to COVID-19.

If you qualify, it will be added to your regular payments — you don’t need to apply for it. It is paid from 1 May to 1 October.

Winter Energy Payment(external link) — Work and Income

Need help?
Try the MoneyTalks helpline. A free financial mentor can help with budgeting advice. They can also talk to your lender, eg about changing repayments.

Phone 0800 345 123 or use live chat, email or text.

MoneyTalks(external link)


Travel and accommodation

At this alert level you can travel between regions using all usual forms of transport. If your travel involves bookings, follow distancing instructions from the transport operator. Do not travel if you are required to self-isolate/quarantine or have COVID-19 symptoms. Border restrictions remain in place and international travel is still limited.

International travel information(external link) — Unite for Recovery 

Alert Level 1(external link) — Unite for Recovery

Cancellations

For bookings affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, your rights to cancellation will be determined by the terms and conditions of the ticket or booking.

If you booked directly with an airline, ferry company or other travel provider, start by checking for emails about cancellations and your options. Also look on their website. Most travel businesses and accommodation providers have information about COVID-19 cancellations on their homepage.

If you phone, expect a wait before your call is answered — businesses are getting many more calls than usual. If you booked through a travel agent or booking service, contact them about cancellations and your options. Remember to be sympathetic and consider their situation as well as your own.

When consumer rights may be limited

In some situations, businesses do not have to give refunds or other remedies:

‘Frustrated contract’ v ‘force majeure’

If you want to cancel a future domestic booking for when travel may be possible, eg outside of a restricted period, check the businesses’ cancellation terms.

General information on your consumer rights: 

Flights, cancellations and delays 


'Frustrated contract' v 'force majeure'

During this time many businesses are offering refunds or other remedies, like free cancellation or credit for future use. However in some cases they may not have to.

Check your contract terms and conditions. Look for a section on 'force majeure' - if it’s in your contract, your consumer rights may be limited. A force majeure provision means that due to a major unexpected event, like an earthquake or pandemic, a business does not have to keep their side of the agreement. This means they don’t have to give refunds or other remedies - but they can still choose to. Remember to be sympathetic and consider their situation, as well as your own. You may wish to accept a credit for use at a later point.

In the unlikely event your contract does not allow for force majeure, it may still be considered a ‘frustrated contract’. In this situation you should have the right to a refund.

Contract and sales agreements


Events, tour and venue bookings

As major events and tours put public safety at risk there are some events and tours due to be held later in the year that are being cancelled or indefinitely postponed.

Remedies available under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) may be limited during this alert level. As the COVID-19 pandemic is a major unexpected event, businesses may not have to give refunds or other remedies. But they may choose to do so.

Many event organisers and ticket companies have already let customers know about their options, like refunds or new dates.

If you haven't heard — or want to check if the business can do what it has offered — take a look at the terms and conditions given to you when you booked.

Be patient. It’s good to understand what you’re entitled to. It’s also important to be patient as businesses adjust to this unexpected situation.

Event cancellations due to COVID-19

When consumer rights may be limited

In some situations, businesses do not have to give refunds or other remedies:

‘Frustrated contract’ v ‘force majeure'