Inspection fees, postage for returns, expired warranties — how to handle common problems if electronic products break or don't work.

You don't have to accept store credit for a faulty device or appliance. Instead, you should get a refund, repair, or replacement if you bought it from a business selling in New Zealand. With overseas online retailers, it might be harder to sort out any problems.

If your device or appliance doesn't work properly, it doesn't have to be in its original packaging to get a refund.

You may need to pay postage or courier fees to return it. These costs are refundable, unless it turns out that the consumer guarantees have not been breached (e.g., you caused the damage yourself).

If the consumer guarantees have not been breached, you may also be required to pay an inspection fee or a call-out fee for a repairer to check larger products, e.g. a fridge or TV, in addition to cost of any repair itself.

The retailer cannot require you to make these payments before it provides a remedy under the CGA.

If your phone or computer doesn't work, check first if it's a problem with your internet connection or digital file(s), e.g., software, music, e-book.

Streaming and downloads

Your rights if something goes wrong

If there’s a problem with your device or appliance, the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) says you can get a refund, repair, or replacement if:

  • it's faulty
  • you bought it from a business selling in New Zealand in-store or online.

The CGA says products should be:

  • of acceptable quality — safe, in good condition, and in good working order for a reasonable time
  • fit for purpose — it does what it's meant to do, including anything specific you told the retailer before buying it
  • as described — match the description or anything the retailer said about it.

If your gadget or appliance doesn't meet these guarantees, go back to the seller to ask for a remedy — a repair, replacement, or refund.

The retailer decides which to offer if the problem can be fixed.

You choose the remedy if one or more of these apply:

  • the problem can't be fixed
  • the problem is of "substantial character", e.g., unsafe
  • the retailer takes too long to act on your complaint.

CGA: Failure of substantial character(external link) —

Replacements must be like-for-like of similar value, e.g., a TV with similar screen size and picture quality.

Store credit and vouchers are not acceptable remedies for faulty products. It's your right to say no if these are offered.

Refund, replacement, repair

Example — Dirty overalls

Builder Bryce tells a salesperson he needs a washing machine robust enough to clean five sets of filthy overalls each weekend. But his new washing machine never gets the overalls clean. Bryce explains the problem to the store manager, including how he asked about heavy-duty washers before buying. The manager agrees that type of washing machine isn't suitable and gives him a refund. Bryce uses the money to buy a more robust model.

Example — Replacement baby monitor

New mum Tania buys a baby monitor online. It's faulty. Tania needs the monitor each time her new-born sleeps, which is several times a day. She doesn't want to wait the time it would take to post it back and be sent a replacement. She contacts the retailer to ask if she can return the faulty monitor to one of their stores and get a replacement on the spot. She can do this because it's the same company online and in-store.

Your fault, you pay

The Consumer Guarantees Act doesn't protect you from accidental or deliberate damage. If you caused the problem — or it was damaged while in your care, e.g., by your child — you must pay for any repairs or replacements. Examples include:

  • dropping your phone
  • spilling coffee over a keyboard
  • knocking over a flatscreen TV
  • laptop left on a bus
  • failing to follow instructions and damaging your dishwasher.

You might be able to claim on your contents insurance.

Retailers also don't have to give a remedy if something beyond their control caused the problem, e.g., an earthquake.

How to complain

Your rights with common problems

Common problems include:

Other common problems, with tips on how to handle them:

Delivery issues

Misleading prices or advertising

If you or a repairer try to fix the device or appliance first, you might lose your right to a refund, repair, or replacement.

What to do if you have a problem

1. Contact the retailer first

Get in touch with the retailer you bought it from. If it is run by the same company, it can be a different store in the same chain. But you can't expect a different business to put it right.

  • If you bought online, the website should explain the complaints process.
  • If you bought in-store, speak to the manager, not the first salesperson you see.

Honestly describe the problem and answer any questions. Give the retailer time to investigate your complaint. It's their right to check if it's a genuine problem.

You're more likely to get a good result armed with the facts. Make sure you:

  • Know your rights — read Your rights if something goes wrong.
  • Think about what you're going to say and how you will say it.

How to complain

Please note the following section of content is possibly being delivered from an external source (IFRAME in HTML terms), and may present unusual experiences for screen readers.

Example — Unfair expectations

Daisy thinks her 18-month-old games console is faulty. She decides to return it. She picks the most expensive of the latest models and takes it to the till. Daisy tells the sales assistant it's a free replacement for a faulty console. The assistant looks uncertain, so the store manager steps in. The manager explains Daisy's console must first be checked. This is fair. If it is faulty and can't be fixed, Daisy can get a similar model as a replacement — not the most expensive one in the shop.

Example — Unfair fee on refund

Hemi returns a faulty monitor to the store. The manager agrees the fault is serious and the monitor can't be repaired. She offers Hemi a refund, minus a $250 fee for restocking. Hemi doesn't think this sounds fair. He calls Consumer Protection's contact centre to check. He finds out that because it's faulty, the store must give him a full refund, or a replacement monitor at no extra cost.

2. Go to the Disputes Tribunal

If you cannot reach an agreement with the retailer you can go to the Disputes Tribunal. They can order the retailer to:

  • repair your appliance or device
  • give you a replacement
  • refund your money
  • compensate any loss, e.g., spoilt food due to a faulty fridge.

About the Tribunal(external link) — Disputes Tribunal

More help

For support at any point contact:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) — a free, independent service, run by volunteers. CAB can advise you on your consumer rights and obligations, in person, by phone, or online.
  • Community Law Centre — offers free one-on-one legal advice to people with limited finances. The organisation has 24 community law centres throughout the country. You can find legal information and other resources on its website.

Find a CAB(external link) — Citizens Advice Bureau

Our law centres(external link) — Community Law Centres