Your rights with prices, and the rules about how they are displayed or advertised. Also your rights when buying products by weight or measure.

Rules for pricing products and services

Traders can choose the price at which they sell their products and services. You can choose to buy the item at the price they are asking for, or try somewhere else. A contract of sale is not complete until the seller has agreed to your offer.

Read Forming contracts to find out more about making a contract of sale.

The sticker price may not be the actual price. The price is agreed when you make a deal with the trader. So double check that the price on the till matches what you expect. The recommended retail price is the price that the manufacturer or distributor suggests, but this is optional.

Most shops have fixed prices but you can try to negotiate. Retail owners and service providers may be flexible on prices, especially if you can pay cash or you buy a few big ticket items. Use price comparison websites to research prices online.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) is charged at 15% on most products and services in New Zealand. GST is usually included in the price, but if not, this must be clearly stated, eg plus GST or GST exclusive. If a trader doesn’t state that GST is not included, this may breach the Fair Trading Act, as the price is misleading.

Products sold by weight or measure

The trader must tell you information about the quantity by:

  • having a quantity label or marking on the products
  • weighing or measuring the products in front of you
  • providing a receipt or invoice stating the quantity sold.

All products sold in New Zealand must be sold in metric units, eg grams, kilograms, millilitres, litres and metres. Once a seller states a weight or measure, it must be accurate. You should be able to see the weighing and the weight indication on the scales if this is done at the time of sale.

For pre-packaged products, weights or measures stated on the packaging are net, ie they don’t include the wrapping or container. They must contain the amount stated on the package or the stated quantity on a label if this varies.

Know your rights

You have the right to clear and accurate prices for products and services under the Fair Trading Act (FTA).

Most retailers that use computerised check-out and barcoding systems are members of GS1 New Zealand. Their code of practice (external link)states that prices should be displayed so that they can be read and linked with the product easily, and the retailer can’t charge more that the displayed price.

A trader or retailer who is not a member of GS1 New Zealand, doesn't have to advertise or display their prices. But any business who doesn't will be caught by the guarantee of a reasonable price under the Consumer Guarantees Act if none is set.

Products advertised or sold at the wrong price

Usually if a price is advertised or displayed incorrectly at a substantially lower price, a trader doesn’t have to sell you products at that price. The Contract and Commercial Law Act may apply to fix any mistakes as to price made by you or both you and the seller if there is substantial inequality of value. But if they often advertise products at the wrong price or for a long time, they may be breaking the FTA by misleading you about the true price of products.

If you have been undercharged, after the sale is completed a trader can’t ask you to pay the extra amount, unless you knew that:

  • there was a genuine mistake about the price, and
  • it was much less than it should have been.

Advertised prices must be genuine and the total price including all extra costs must be easy to see.

No price agreed

If you have ordered a custom-made item or work to be done by a business, but you didn’t agree on a price before the work started, then the final price should be reasonable under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). This means you pay the same price as other traders or tradespeople are charging for similar products and services. Generally, you should get a quote in advance of getting any work done such as repairs, renovations and other services.

Read Getting quotes and estimates to find out more.

Price promotions and illegal price fixing

Retailers often discount products and services and advertise the savings you can make by buying at the discounted price compared to the non-sale price. This may be misleading and breach the FTA if the claimed usual price:

  • has never been charged
  • is inflated
  • is out of date.

If the discounted price is used a lot, it becomes the usual selling price. It would then be misleading for a business to continue to claim it was discounting this price.

Businesses may also mislead you about prices if they:

  • promote a special price to get you to buy quickly when it is actually the usual price
  • state that an advertised price is the total price that you will have to pay when it is not.

Some ways of setting prices are illegal, like price-fixing or resale price maintenance, as they increase the prices you pay. Resale price maintenance is when a supplier sets a minimum price that a retailer can sell their products for.

Read the Commerce Commission’s factsheet on Pricing(external link) to find out more.

Drip-feeding prices: The practice of adding extra fees to the advertised price of products and services, in the fine print or at the end of an online sales process is called drip-feeding prices. It is used in travel promotions, car sales, rental cars and telecommunication services. It is not illegal unless the advertising is deliberately misleading.

Rounding prices: If you pay with cash, the retailer should round the total price for all your items up or down to the nearest 10 cents, eg if the price is $2.54 then you should pay $2.50; if the price is $2.57 then you should pay $2.60. If retailers round the price of each item, this may breach the FTA as they are not selling the products at the marked or advertised price. If you pay by EFTPOS, credit card or cheque, you should be charged the actual price. If you know a shop is selling an item for a lower price you can ask the trader to lower their price. It is up to the trader whether they wish to match this price or not. 

Receipts and itemised accounts: Most traders will provide a receipt if asked, but they are not required to by law. If you don’t get a quote for services, you can ask for an itemised account before paying for the work done. An itemised account should include:

  • what materials were used and how much they cost
  • how many hours the trader worked and what their hourly rate was
  • any other charges related to the job eg, call-out fee, travel charge, and GST.

GST invoices: A trader must supply GST invoices to GST registered customers if asked. The Goods and Services Act says that a GST registered person is entitled to a GST invoice within 28 days of asking for one.

Credit or debit card payments: You may pay an extra surcharge to cover the bank fees for credit or debit card transactions. This surcharge must be based on the reasonable costs of card acceptance. This fee is only chargeable by the trader if they verbally tell you about the surcharge or have a notice about it publicly displayed on their premises.  

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): is the latest technology that uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. RFID using Electronic Product Codes (EPC) to identify products may take over from the GS1 barcode. RFID is currently used on trade items. There are benefits, but there are also legitimate privacy concerns from the inappropriate use of RFID. There is a Code of Practice(external link) (PDF) for the use of EPCs by members of GS1 New Zealand.

You have different options if you have a dispute over pricing or weights and measures.

Contact the retailer or service provider to try and resolve the problem

Try to resolve any dispute about pricing or weights and measures directly with the seller first. If you think you have been sold a short amount you can:

  • ask the seller to re-weigh or measure the products in front of you
  • tell the seller you believe they have sold you short weight or measure
  • check to see whether the scale or petrol pump has a current certificate of accuracy.

You can rely on scales and pumps that have a current certificate.

Read Resolve a problem to find out more.

Next steps

If you are unable to resolve your issue directly with the retailer, manufacturer or service provider, our Resolve It tool has information to help you take the next steps. These may include going to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.

Resolve it: Prices

Need more help?

Contact us for more guidance.

Common situations

Mistake in the prices

Grant is thrilled to see an online advertisement for smart TVs for only $50 from his local appliance store. He rushes in to buy one and finds out the actual price is $500. The owner apologises for the mistake in the advertising and has it corrected immediately. If the store did this regularly, it would not be just a mistake. It could be misleading conduct and Grant should report the store to the Commerce Commission.

Amount seems less than the amount ordered

Janet orders 3 cubic metres of pine firewood, but when it arrives she notices the amount seems to be less than she had delivered last year. She talks to the seller who states that it is more or less 3 cubic metres but that he has not checked it. He agrees to check the amount delivered against the approved volume measure.

Petrol pump bill seems too high

John fills up his car, which is supposed to be 100 litres, but when he has to pay for the petrol, he is charged for 102 litres. Although he thinks he has been short sold, all petrol pumps deliver fuel with precise tolerances, so it’s unlikely he has been short sold. While the fuel tank is supposed to hold 100 litres, it may hold slightly more or less than that – the size is approximate.