On the first day of Christmas, Consumer Protection gave to me… 12 tips to enjoy the festive season, worry-free!

We have done a bit of investigating to find out what are the more common issues experienced by New Zealand consumers over the Christmas period.

Whether you’re putting up the inflatable swimming pool, buying gifts for the extended family, or trading in the retail industry, this 12 points for a good Christmas list has the advice to help you get it done safely and learn about your rights as a consumer or business.

  1. It’s beginning to look a lot like an unwanted gift. If you simply change your mind about a purchase or the recipient doesn’t want the gift, the retailer is under no legal obligation to provide a refund or exchange. However, some stores have their own in-store policy to remedy an unwanted gift situation. Learn more from Consumer Protection’s product returns and refunds webpage.
  2. Deck the entertainment room with digital technology. When you buy digital gifts online, such as music, games, movies, e-books, and software, check the website terms and conditions carefully. These products are often supplied from overseas and it might not be clear how your personal information is being stored, so check the terms and be aware of illegal (pirated) copies, scams, unfair contract terms, or limited information on customer helplines. Find out about your rights on our Digital Products information webpage.
  3. All I want for Christmas is something that works. Businesses want you to go home happy with the gifts you’ve purchased, but they also have obligations under the law to provide you with a remedy for a faulty product. A faulty product may not work, could break too easily, or doesn’t do what you expected. If there is a problem with your product, take the Repair, Replacement or Refund quiz to see when you’re entitled to a remedy.
  4. O what fun it is to ride, in the new family car. As we don’t all have reindeer, purchasing a motor vehicle to cart the family around this summer could be a significant investment. Have you done your pre-purchase homework? Having a vehicle mechanically checked and knowing what to look for when you take it for a test drive are two main tips from Consumer Protection. Our Pre-purchase Checklist [PDF, 390 KB] will guide you through other tips and advice to help know what to check before buying a car.
  5. We all want our figgy pudding, but avoid overspending this Christmas. Food, decorations and gifts; don’t let the hype of Christmas lead you to using credit cards or borrowing money you don’t need. Set a budget, and make sure you understand the long-term cost and any interest you may be charged if you take out a loan. Most importantly, read the credit contract you’re signing. We have advice about managing your debts and your rights while doing so. 
  6. O come, all ye home renovators. Kiwis love to take to the house with a hammer and nails over the summer period, but do you know your rights and obligations in the building process? There are Building Code requirements to meet, and you might need consents and permissions for the work you’d like to do. Building Performance has a DIY, but build it right information page(external link) to guide home renovators through the process of ‘building it right’. 
  7. Hark! The installation of my gifted washing machine went wrong. When you have asked for a service and it is poorly done or has taken far too long, go back to the provider as soon as possible with information on the problem. You may be covered under the law to cancel the contract, amend the cost, or seek a repair or compensation. Read about common service issues covered by the law and what you can do about them.
  8. Have yourself, a merry little (paid off) Christmas hamper. Many Christmas hamper deals offer a ‘pay it off’ service, where you pay instalments throughout the year for the hamper to be delivered at Christmas. Your consumer rights with this type of agreement are the same as for layby sales. These include being entitled to an agreement that has a clear description of the good, a total price that does not move throughout the year, and information about your right to cancel plus any charges. We’ve prepared a short Buying on layby booklet [PDF, 479 KB] that summarises layby sales, cancellations, and frequently asked questions. 
  9. We wish you a happy contractual remedy. Buying products and services from a private seller at Christmas time, rather than from a seller that is in trade, could carry more risk. Make sure you know what your rights are to cancel a contract or seek compensation, as the Consumer Guarantees Act may not apply. We’ve laid out what you need to know on our information page Contractual remedies and your rights.
  10. Bells on bobtail ring, making salesmen sing. While many door-to-door salespersons are legitimate, the Christmas period can see an increase in uninvited salespeople cold calling or visiting homes. Remember, you have the right to be suspicious and say no. If anyone asks for your personal or financial information, don’t engage and do your research on the organisation. Watch the How to spot a scam video to learn what the red flags of a scam look like.
  11. Dreaming of a cool Christmas in the pool? Portable and inflatable swimming pools are popular over summer but it’s important to keep kids safe around them. By law any residential pool, including portable or inflatable pools, that can be filled to 400mm or more deep must have a barrier, such as a fence. Before you fill your portable pool make sure you have the right barrier to stop unsupervised young children from getting into the pool. See MBIE’s Guidance for pool owners(external link).
  12. Tis the season to brush up on your business obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) A recent report(external link) shows retail businesses could do more to prepare their employees for the silly season by making sure they understand consumer rights under the CGA. This includes knowing what to do if the product sold is not of acceptable quality, does not match the description, or does not arrive on time if sold online. Our information page for businesses Obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act is a good resource for employees/employers.