What you need to know when businesses approach you first or give you products and services that you didn’t ask for, and your rights to cancel the sale.

Special rules to protect you

Door-to-door sales, telemarketing sales, mail order sales, or sales advertised in infomercials on television and shopping channels are called uninvited direct sales. There are special rules to protect you under the Fair Trading Act when:

  • a trader sells you consumer products or services over $100 for personal, domestic or household use
  • the sale is negotiated at your home or workplace, or by phone
  • you didn’t invite the trader to visit or call for that reason.

It is still an uninvited direct sale even if:

  • the seller had your contact details for something else and later they try to contact you to sell you products and services
  • you respond to an unsuccessful attempt by a business to contact you, eg returning a missed call
  • you negotiate with a business after you receive an unsolicited quote or estimate
  • you had earlier bought something else from the seller after inviting them to phone you or to come to your home or workplace that previous time.

Checklist to minimise your risk

Some things to consider to reduce your risk include:

  • Don't be pressured into buying something you don't really want.
  • You can change your mind and cancel for any reason within 5 working days of receiving the written agreement. You should get a full refund.
  • If you cancel, take reasonable care of the products for 10 working days afterwards. The supplier has to collect them at any reasonable time they request in this period.
  • Record the date and the time of your purchase and keep any confirmation of your order.
  • Use your credit card to make purchases, so you can apply to your bank for a chargeback if there are any problems. A chargeback reverses the transaction.
  • Make sure the terms and conditions are clear, including: price, delivery costs, date of delivery, returns and warranties.

Unsolicited products or services

Unsolicited products or services are products or services supplied to you that you didn’t order. You also have special protections under the Fair Trading Act (FTA) and traders must tell you about your rights. The exceptions are reticulated gas and electricity. So if you move into a new rental house and the power is connected, you are not entitled to free electricity. The electricity company has the right to charge you for any power you use.

Know your rights

For all uninvited direct sales of consumer products or services from a supplier in trade, you have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) and the Fair Trading Act (FTA). The FTA has specific rules for cancelling sales and for what traders must tell you.
Under the CGA, you have minimum guarantees if:

  • the products or services are faulty or don’t match their description
  • your products are delivered late
  • your products are lost or damaged in transit
  • the delivery or freight costs are more expensive than stated.

Under the FTA, you have protection from false or misleading representations or statements, unsubstantiated claims and unfair sales practices.

See also:

You must get a written, plain English copy of your sales contract within five working days.

Cancelling a sale and what traders must tell you

You may cancel an uninvited direct sale and get a full refund for any reason within 5 working days from the day after you sign the contract. This is called the ‘cooling-off’ period.

You must take reasonable care of the products for 10 working days after you cancel. If youdon't, you may have to pay for them if they are lost, destroyed or damaged during this time, unless this was outside your control.

Once you’ve been repaid, you should allow the seller to take any products that you bought under the agreement from your address at any reasonable time that the seller requests.

If you agree to a sales contract over the phone, traders must give you a written copy of the sales agreement within 5 working days from the day after the agreement is made. The contract must be clear and easy to understand and set out:

  • the products or services
  • both parties’ names, and contact details
  • your right to cancel
  • the total price or how it will be calculated.

If the trader doesn’t comply with these disclosure requirements, the contract can’t be enforced and the trader will have committed an offence.

Read the Commerce Commission’s factsheet on Door-to-door sales and telemarketing sales(external link) for more information.

Products and services you didn’t order

If you receive products and services you didn’t order and you want them: You can pay for them and keep them or the service output. You’re protected by the Consumer Guarantees Act if they are faulty.

If you receive products and services you didn’t order and don’t want them: You can tell the trader that, or do nothing. Suppliers have 10 working days to collect the items, which you must make reasonably available in an obvious place, eg under cover on the doorstep. If they don’t collect the items, you can keep them for free after the 10 days have passed. During this time you also have to look after the items, otherwise you may have to pay if they are lost or damaged.

You can also keep the products if you weren’t told about your rights and their obligations at the time of delivery.

But you can’t keep the products for free if you know they weren’t intended for you, eg if they were addressed to someone else or you were unreasonable about collection.

If work is done without your prior agreement: You can cancel after the work has been done and you don’t have to pay the trader or business that did the work. If your property has been changed or damaged, they have to return it to the condition it was in before for free.

Pro-forma invoicing: Traders can’t invoice you when they supply you with products or services without your consent for them, unless they make it clear that you do not have to pay.

Inertia selling: Inertia selling is when you are sent products or provided services you did not order and are told that unless you expressly rejected them, you are now obliged to pay. This is illegal.

Delivered products damaged or lost in transit

Parcels delivered by NZ Post are covered by the New Zealand Post Act and the Postal Users Guide. Visit NZ Post’s website(external link) for more information. For freight delivered by a courier company, you will need to check your contract with them to claim compensation for products lost or damaged in transit.

Read Moving and transporting goods to find out more.

Privacy issues

When you browse online, retailers can collect lots of personal data without you knowing by using cookies, even if you don’t buy anything. Your privacy settings on the internet can be set to choose which cookies are stored. You can also opt out on the website. The Privacy Act 1993 prevents the use of your personal details without your consent.

Spam is electronic commercial messages that are sent to you unrequested. For anti-spam measures, the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 may apply.

See the Department of Internal Affairs website(external link) for more information.

Contracting out of the Fair Trading Act (FTA)

Traders can’t try to get around their responsibilities under the FTA when they supply products or services to you. If you are in business, a trader can contract out, but only if both parties agree in writing and it is fair and reasonable to rely on this agreement.

Read the Commerce Commission’s factsheet on Contracting out of the Fair Trading Act(external link).

Contact the retailer or manufacturer to try and resolve the problem

First, go back to the retailer or manufacturer to try and sort out the problem.

For couriered items damaged in transit, take photos of them on arrival and tell the trader and courier immediately, as there may be strict time limits for claiming from the freight company. 

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: Faulty products and services

Resolve it: Scams

Resolve it: Spam and direct marketing

Need more help?

Contact us for more guidance.

Common situations

Uninvited direct sales

While a company is at Greg’s home installing a security system, they sell his elderly mother a personal alarm. The sale of the personal alarm is an uninvited direct sale.

Change in key terms of sales contract not a renewal

Aroha has a monthly text and calling plan with her mobile phone company. Her phone company offers her a new phone, if she upgrades her plan to include a more expensive data package. This is not a renewal agreement as key terms of the contract (price and services) have changed.

Renewal agreements

Jenny’s one-year SKY TV contract is due to expire and a sales representative phones her to extend the contract for another year on the same terms. This is a renewal agreement. If SKY changed the price or channels she could access, the new contract might be an uninvited direct sale because the important terms of the contract have changed.

Misuse of your personal information for marketing

Richard wanted to register for a triathlon online. After checking the site was secure, he entered his credit card and contact details and ticked the box that said he did not wish his personal details to be used for promotional purposes. Some months later, he began receiving fliers at his home from sportswear companies. Richard suspects the promoters have misused his personal information and he complains to the Privacy Commissioner.