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Shopping from Home and Online

Shopping from Home and Online

Shopping from home and online may be different from shopping at a shop. When you shop at a physical shop, you usually get the basic guarantees covered by the law as most shops are registered traders.  When you buy things from home or online, you may get different guarantees or sometimes no guarantees at all.

This section will help you understand what guarantees you may have as a consumer when you shop from your own home or shop online.

What is a door-to-door sale?

Sometimes people come to your house or call you to try to sell you things. You have extra protections if you agree to buy an item in these circumstances but you don’t pay the whole price immediately, or if you purchase services that cost more than $40 in these circumstances.

What rights do I have on door-to-door sale?

The seller has to give you a written agreement explaining all the costs and charges. You can take time to read the contract and understand it – don’t let them pressure you into signing anything immediately! We know it may be a long document but you should always read the agreement before signing! It’s also a good idea to check whether nearby stores have a better deal sometimes before purchasing.

Do I have a right to cancel a door-to-door sale?

Yes, you have the right to cancel an uninvited direct sales agreement (aka a door-to-door sale) by giving notice to the seller within a five working day period for any reason. This is called the ‘cooling-off period’.  The seller can’t charge you any cancellation fees, and they have to pick any items up from your house and give you a full refund. Remember to keep the items in the original condition.

If the agreement was for services (gardening for example), and you cancel after the person has already provided these services, they’re not entitled to be paid.

Do I get any protection when I buy things online?

When you buy something online, different rules apply depending on whether the seller is a ‘trader’ (selling things as a business – usually as a company), or just another individual living in New Zealand.

If a seller isn’t in New Zealand (e.g. if you buy on Ebay or an overseas website), then New Zealand law doesn’t apply to them. You will only be protected by whatever law applies in the seller’s country. This can be very different in different countries. Even if they have return policies, you may still have to pay the return postage fee, which can be a large amount of money from New Zealand. Plus, it may be extremely difficult and expensive to access your rights internationally when you’re not physically in that country.

How do I know if I am buying from a New Zealand trader?

An online registered trader from New Zealand has to make it clear if they are a trader, and you may find this in the About Us or FAQ or Returns section of the shop’s page. You get more protection if you buy from a trader (person or company selling things as a business). When buying from a trader online, you’ll receive the same consumer protection as purchases from a physical shop. Traders selling online have to follow the same rules.

If you’re buying on TradeMe, there should be a “trader” label next to the seller’s username if they are a registered trader.

What rights do I have when I’m buying from a New Zealand trader online?

Beyond the general guarantees under the Consumer Guarantees Act, if you buy something from an online NZ trader that’s going to be delivered to your house, the Consumer Guarantees Act says you should get the item when you and the seller agreed it would arrive. If you didn’t have a specific agreement, you should get it in a reasonable time. It’s also the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is of acceptable quality when it arrives. If the item doesn’t arrive in a reasonable time or it’s not of acceptable quality, you might be able to get the seller to fix the item, or even send it back for a refund.

I bought a faulty item off TradeMe or off Facebook from another person, can I get a refund?

You get much less protection if you buy something from someone who isn’t a trader. This is common on websites like TradeMe or on Facebook. You will have none of the guarantees in the Consumer Guarantees Act.  If they’re in New Zealand, you are protected under the Contractual Remedies Act (CRA) if you can prove:

  1. The seller lied about something; and
  2. That lie influenced your decision to buy; and
  3. You have suffered from some kind of loss because of their false statement.

For example, if someone lied to you about the condition of an item you were buying from them on TradeMe and you paid to get it fixed, you might have a claim under the CRA.

To get any money back, you will need to negotiate with them and see if they’re willing to give you a refund. If they don’t, you will need to take them to the Disputes Tribunal to get the money back. However, it may be very difficult to get any money back through the Disputes Tribunal, because the only contact detail you may have of the seller is their email address. You may not even have their real name. You cannot serve official court/tribunal documents on someone through email, you’ll need their address, so it could be hard to get any money back at the end of the day.

Also, there is a fee to attending the Disputes Tribunal, if say your item cost $15, that will be less than any Disputes Tribunal fee you have to pay, so it may not be worthwhile to take the seller to the Disputes Tribunal even if you knew their contact details sometimes.

I bought a faulty item from someone I know, can I get a refund?

Similar to buying off a stranger online, the person you know is likely not a registered trader (someone selling items as a business).  You will have none of the guarantees in the Consumer Guarantees Act.  If they’re in New Zealand, you are protected under the Contractual Remedies Act (CRA) if you can prove:

  1. The seller lied about something; and
  2. That lie influenced your decision to buy; and
  3. You have suffered from some kind of loss because of their false statement.

To get any money back, you should first negotiate with them and see if they’re willing to give you a refund. If they don’t, you will need to take them to the Disputes Tribunal to get the money back. If you know this person, it could get slightly awkward.

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