Got a problem with goods?
What to do if you've bought goods and they are faulty or unsatisfactory.
The Consumer Guarantees Act gives you rights if goods you buy are faulty or unsatisfactory. This page explains how to sort out problems with goods.
On this page:
- What is a manufacturer, what is a retailer?
- What goods the Consumer Guarantees Act covers
- Who sorts out your problem
- Remedies that the retailer or manufacturer can offer
- What you should do to reject faulty or unsatisfactory goods
- Resolving common problems
- Find out more.
On this page:
- A manufacturer is a business who manufactures goods but does not sell them directly to you as a consumer. If the goods are manufactured outside New Zealand, the importer or distributor is considered to be the manufacturer under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
- A retailer is anyone in in trade who sells goods directly to you, including retailers in shops, online retailers, second-hand dealers, and motor vehicle dealers. It also includes manufacturers who sell goods directly to the consumer. The Act calls this role a 'supplier'.
The Consumer Guarantees Act sets out certain guarantees goods have to meet and the rights and remedies available to you if goods fail to meet one or more of these guarantees.
The guarantees under the Act cover all types of consumer goods that you buy from a retailer including second-hand goods, and goods you have received as a gift. They also cover consumer goods that you hire or lease, and goods supplied to you as a result of an insurance claim.
See Guarantees for goods for more information about what these guarantees are and what particular goods are covered (and also not covered).
You can choose to go back to either the retailer or the manufacturer.
It is usually easier to go back to the retailer because they were the one you paid for the goods, so your rights are clearer. But if the retailer has gone out of business or you have problems dealing with them, you may want to go to the manufacturer instead.
If you decide to go back to the retailer, it is the retailer who must deal with your problem. They cannot tell you to take the problem to the manufacturer, or to claim under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Note that your rights for compensation differ between the two types of sellers. It is a good idea to decide who would be the best business to resolve your particular problem before you approach them. Read the descriptions below about when to go to either seller and decide which seller would best resolve your particular problem.
Go to EITHER the retailer or manufacturer if:
- the goods you bought are not of acceptable quality
- the goods are different from a description given (the manufacturer is only responsible for descriptions given or approved by them, e.g. what is shown on the packaging or in the manufacturer’s advertising).
Go to the retailer (but not the manufacturer) if:
- the goods don’t match the sample or model you were shown
- the goods aren’t fit for a particular purpose which you had told the retailer you wanted them for
- the retailer did not have the right to sell you the goods.
Go to the manufacturer (but not the retailer) if:
- there are no spare parts or repairs available and you were not told this when you bought the goods
- the manufacturer does not provide what is promised in their warranty (also known as an 'express guarantee').
In most cases which remedy you are entitled to will depend on how bad the problem is with the goods, and whether you are seeking a remedy from the retailer or manufacturer.
Remedies that the retailer can offer
The options available to you depend on whether the problem is minor, or whether it is serious or cannot be fixed.
See Remedies depend on how serious the fault is for what the Consumer Guarantees Act considers to be a serious fault.
If the problem has caused you other loss or damage, you can also require the retailer to compensate you for this. You can claim this for both serious and minor problems.
See What if the faulty goods cause damage (‘consequential loss’)? below.
If the problem is minor
The retailer decides the remedy. You can ask them to fix the item, but the retailer can choose between repairing it, replacing it, or giving you a refund. If the retailer refuses to fix the problem or takes more than a reasonable time to do so, you can
- return the goods and ask for your money back, or
- ask for a replacement, if the same type of goods are reasonably available to the retailer, or
- take the goods elsewhere to be fixed and ask the retailer to pay the cost of repair.
If the problem is serious or cannot be fixed
You as the buyer choose the remedy. You can choose to:
- return (reject) the goods and get your money back, or
- return the goods for a replacement of similar value and type (if the goods are reasonably available as part of the retailer’s stock ), or
- keep the goods and have the price reduced to make up for its drop in value.
You can complain to the Commerce Commission if you are being misled about this because it is a breach of the Fair Trading Act to mislead consumer about their rights.
It is reasonable for you to allow the retailer to send the goods to the manufacturer or another party to determine the nature and seriousness of the fault, and to rule out any misuse.
Remedies that the manufacturer can offer
You did not pay the manufacturer directly for the goods so your rights against manufacturers are different and not as clear cut as those against the retailer.
You can ask the manufacturer to do the following:
- Return some of your money if the fault has resulted in the goods losing some of their value. But if the manufacturer has given you an express guarantee that they will repair or replace the goods (i.e. a manufacturer's warranty), you first have to give them a chance to put the matter right.
- Pay for any damage caused by the goods when they became faulty (consequential loss).
See What if the faulty goods cause damage (‘consequential loss’)? below.
The manufacturer is not liable if the problem is caused by someone other than the manufacturer or their agent, or by an event outside of human control, such as an earthquake.
Manufacturer’s written guarantee or warranty
A manufacturer does not have to provide a written warranty (also known as an 'express guarantee') with their goods. But if they do, they must provide what is set out in their warranty.
A warranty usually states faulty goods will be repaired, or replaced if necessary. It may also state the availability of spare parts and who will do the repairs.
If the fault is serious, you must reject goods by returning them to the retailer as soon as you can. Put your rejection in writing and give this to the retailer.
If the goods are large and you are unable to deliver them yourself, the retailer is responsible for collecting them.
You can't reject faulty goods that have been attached to other property and if removal will damage the goods (e.g. if you notice the wallpaper you have just put up is faulty).
You have six years from the time the problem appears to take legal action. A long delay in complaining may affect your remedies or make it difficult to prove the problem with the goods. We recommend that you advise the retailer of the problem as soon as possible so that the retailer can record the complaint.
If the goods cause other damage when they become faulty, you can also ask the retailer or manufacturer to pay for the damage. This is called ‘consequential loss.’ An example of this would be if a washing machine floods a laundry and ruins the vinyl flooring.
But there is a limit to what you can claim as consequential loss. The loss must be "reasonably forseeable" to happen. For example, if your wrist watch was lying on the floor and damaged by the flood from the washing machine, you could not claim for its repair.
The retailer won’t fix my problem
If you can’t resolve your problem with the retailer, you can:
- approach the manufacturer
- write a letter to the business
- complain to a retailer organisation, or
- make a claim at the Disputes Tribunal.
No, this has not been tested in court yet, but we don’t think you do. This is because a refurbished item is not one of the remedies allowed for under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
If the failure with the goods is not serious, the retailer can choose to remedy by repairing or “by replacing the goods with goods of identical type”. In our view, there is a strong argument that electronic goods that have been used by another person, even if they have been refurbished, are NOT goods of an identical type to electronic goods that you have purchased new. So you do not have to accept them.
If the failure is serious, you can reject the goods and choose between a refund and a replacement. The replacement must be “goods of the same type and of similar value to replace the rejected goods”. If all the retailer is prepared to offer is a refurbished item, you are quite entitled to exercise your right to choose a refund instead and to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll have my money back.”
- Your Consumer Rights (Goods) [1132KB PDF] (November 2007)
A guide giving more information about your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
See Publications to order a printed copy of this guide online.
- Got a problem with a motor vehicle?
More information about dealing with a faulty motor vehicle.
- Recalls – what to do, your rights
What to do and your rights under the law if your product is recalled.