Know your rights
Your rights when you shop online depend on whether you are buying products or services from:
- a trader in New Zealand
- an overseas trader
- a private seller on an online auction site, such as Trade Me or eBay.
Check the terms and conditions before you buy online including returns, delivery, warranties etc.
Buying online from a business based in New Zealand
The guarantees under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) apply when you buy online from a business based in New Zealand. If you have problems with a faulty product, you can get a remedy from the seller.
Read Faulty products to find out more.
Under the Fair Trading Act (FTA), online sellers must clearly disclose to you if they are selling in trade. Trade sellers often have these identifying features:
- they regularly offer to sell products or services online
- they make or buy products with the intention of selling them
- they have staff or assistants or automated orders to deal with orders
- they are GST registered; have a business logo, website and brochures; or are a registered company.
Read the Commerce Commission’s factsheet Buying and selling online (external link) to find out more.
You can claim compensation or cancel the purchase under the FTA, if any auction website operators or online traders mislead you or make false representations about their products or services.
Not all online traders hold stock. They will source it once an order has been placed. They need to make this clear online. They must have a reasonable basis to believe that they can meet the order as it is promoted, or they may be in breach of the FTA.
When you buy from a business online and they arrange delivery, they're responsible for the products arriving on time and undamaged.
Buying from daily-deal or group-buying websites
You have the same rights as when you buy from any other online business. Common problems include: the products have not arrived, they can’t take your booking, and the supplier is blaming the daily-deal site and the daily-deal site is blaming the supplier.
If you have a problem, you can ask either the discount site or the supplier to put it right. If the discount site says that you have to sort it out with the business, they may be breaching the FTA by misleading you about your rights.
Often vouchers will have an expiry date. If you can’t redeem the voucher before this date, you can ask for the service to be provided later. If a business takes a payment without intending to provide a service, this is a breach of the FTA.
Read Gift vouchers and laybys to find out more.
Buying online from an overseas business
You have fewer legal rights if you buy from an overseas trader online. New Zealand law will not apply. Check the trader’s website for their terms and conditions including their return, exchange or refund policies, complaints process, and any laws that apply when you buy from them.
You are not covered by the CGA, but you may have rights under the FTA if they are selling into New Zealand. However, it’s harder to resolve problems.
If you pay by credit card, you may be able to apply for a ‘chargeback' if the products you have ordered don’t arrive. A chargeback is when a transaction is reversed by your bank.
Other things to be aware of:
- Exchanges, repairs and refunds take longer and may be more difficult to negotiate.
- Import duties and restrictions may apply – see NZ Customs website for more information.
- The products may be more expensive once delivery costs are included and the price is converted into New Zealand dollars.
Buying from a private seller
If you’re buying from a private seller at online auction sites such as Trade Me, the Consumer Guarantees Act and Fair Trading Act don’t apply. You have the same rights as if it was a private sale.
Read Buying privately and second-hand to find out more.
When you browse online, retailers can collect lots of personal information 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 may also be able to opt out on the website. The Privacy Act 1993 prevents the use of your personal details without your consent.
- what information a website or online retailer will collect from you, eg your name and email address — if they store more sensitive details like your credit card number, consider shopping elsewhere.
- how your information will be used, eg to manage your online account or to target ads to you on other websites.
- if your information will be stored and for how long — some retailers will only store your details to complete your purchase, while others may keep it long after you’ve deleted your online account.
- how they will protect your information.
- if and how they will share your information — some retailers share or sell personal data to third-parties or businesses overseas.
- how you can find and correct your information.
- how you can contact them if you have a privacy question or complaint.
Spam is electronic commercial messages that are sent to you that you haven’t requested. For anti-spam measures, the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 may apply.
See the Department of Internal Affairs website (external link) for more information.