Customers who have paid for goods and services that can't be provided on the agreed date due to COVID-19 may be entitled to a refund, an expert says.
Due to alert level 3 restrictions, Auckland shops and hospitality venues are closed and gatherings are limited to funerals and weddings of up to 10 people. Contactless pick-up and delivery are available, but not all goods and services are.
Consumer New Zealand head of research Jessica Wilson said there were situations where customers who had prepaid for goods or services could ask for their money back.
"An example is if you've paid for a product but the retailer cancels your order. You'd be entitled to a refund - you don't have to accept store credit," Wilson explained.
Another example is a pre-paid birthday cake. If the cake can't be provided under COVID-19 restrictions, unless the customer agrees to delay the order, they can ask for a refund.
"[If] the move to level 3 means the store can't provide it on the agreed date, we'd generally expect a refund to be provided," Wilson added.
If a venue is booked for a birthday party but due to alert level 3 restrictions, it can't go ahead on the date planned, and can't be postponed, it's called a "frustrated contract". This happens when the circumstances are outside the parties' control.
"When a contract is frustrated, you're entitled to ask for a refund. In some cases, it may be reasonable for the venue to charge a small fee to cover its administration costs," Wilson added.
If agreement can't be reached, the case can be taken to the Disputes Tribunal. If the transaction was paid for using a debit or credit card, the bank may be able to help.
Kiwibank spokeswoman Kara Tait said customers should first take up the issue with the seller. If it wasn't resolved, the customer had up to four months to dispute the charge.
"In reference to goods and services not received, the bank has 120 days from the transaction date to raise a dispute, after that timeframe we're unable to process [it]," Tait said.
For flights and/or accommodation booked in advance, or future events such as concerts, that timeframe could be extended to 540 days, she said.
Before buying goods and services, customers are urged to check the seller's refund policy. If there's no refund for change of mind and the customer cancels, the bank's ability to dispute the charge is limited.