The surprising rights you have under the Consumer Guarantees Act

  • 24/04/2024

Consumer NZ has busted the common myths and misunderstandings surrounding consumer rights. 

The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) has turned 30 so the AM's Wednesday panel discussed the most surprising things the law covers. 

Broadcaster Mel Homer said she was shocked people didn't need to keep the item's original packaging. 

"[I] had no idea that you didn't have to keep the boxing. There's garages all around New Zealand now, people going 'I can finally get rid of that box that I've had for 10 years'," she said. 

Meanwhile, Comedian Sam Smith said he was surprised to learn that gifts are covered. 

So, what are the top myths surrounding the act? 

Consumer NZ has shared the most common misunderstandings that its customer support team and advisors have seen over the last few decades. 

Here they are: 

  1. The product I bought is out of warranty, I'm out of luck
    Under the CGA, you can seek a remedy, such as repair or replacement for a faulty product, even if it isn't covered by a manufacturer's warranty. 
  2. I need a receipt to return a product
    You can also show your store account's purchase history or a bank statement.
  3. The store can choose whether to repair, replace or refund
    "Not always. Let's say a product has a major fault – one where you wouldn't have bought the product if you’d known about the problem – it's your choice whether you ask for a repair, replacement or refund," Gemma Rasmussen, head of advocacy and research at Consumer, said.
    But for minor faults, the retailer can decide. 
  4. I can get a refund if I change my mind
    The retailer is under no legal obligation to give you your money back or exchange the product if you change your mind, however, some do in the interests of good customer service. 
  5. I must have the original packaging to return an item
    No, if your product is faulty they have to replace it, whether it's in the original packaging or not. 
  6. I have rights under the CGA, no matter who I’ve purchased something from
    "Most of the protections in the Act only apply if you buy goods or services from sellers that are 'in trade.' That TV you just bought from a garage sale, or the car you’re eyeing up on Facebook marketplace listed by Joe Bloggs is considered a private sale, so you won’t usually be protected by the CGA," Rasmussen said.
    "You may still have some limited rights against a product's manufacturer under the act, though. There are also some limited protections against misrepresentations in the Contract and Commercial Law Act, which could help you take a case to the Disputes Tribunal." 
  7. If the retailer refuses to help, there's nothing I can do
    You could take a case to the Disputes Tribunal, which deals with disputes up to $30,000. 
  8. I need to buy an extended warranty if I want cover beyond the manufacturer's warranty
    Consumer NZ said many shops are misleading customers about the extended warranties they offer.
    "If you're buying a home appliance and the retailer offers you an extended warranty, our advice is don’t waste your money," Rasmussen said. 
  9. Any additional costs (that resulted from the problem) are on me
    Rasmussen said you may be able to claim for any reasonably foreseeable losses that result from the initial problem.
    "If your new washing machine won’t work properly, you can claim for laundry costs or the cost of hiring a replacement machine while the first one is being fixed," Rasmussen said.
    "If you have to send goods back to be repaired, you don't have to pay for those costs." 
  10. I'm not covered because it was a gift
    No, you have the same rights as if you had bought it for yourself. 
  11. The customer is always right
    "This old adage is just that – old," Rasmussen said.
    "Thinking that you’re in the right just because you’re a paying customer isn’t the best attitude to have. 

"There's a difference between being right and having rights. Get to know your consumer rights, and you’ll find just how empowering it is to stand up for yourself when you need to."