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Moving and transporting goods

Your rights and common problems to be aware of when using carriers to move and transport goods.

Your rights and common problems to be aware of when using carriers to move and transport goods.

This page includes changes to the Carriage of Goods Act and the Consumer Guarantees Act from 17 June 2014.

On this page:

What is a carrier?

A carrier is a business that carries goods owned by another person. This includes:

  • a furniture mover
  • a tow truck company
  • transport services like a taxi or bus
  • a stevedore or warehouse person who handles goods in transit, for example, when offloading goods from a ship.

The Carriage of Goods Act applies to all goods carried by road, rail, sea or air within New Zealand. It covers courier services, but not items sent in the mail by New Zealand Post. These services are regulated by the Postal Services Act 1998.

See Postal legislation on the NZ Post website for more information.



Laws for moving and transporting goods

When a carrier transports your goods, they must comply with both the Carriage of Goods Act and the Consumer Guarantees Act.

  • The Carriage of Goods Act covers the carrier’s liability for loss or damage to all goods.
  • The Consumer Guarantees Act covers the carriage service the business provides to consumers.



Types of carriage contract

Under the Carriage of Goods Act, all carriage contracts must be in writing.

You and the carrier must agree on the terms of the contract. This means carriers must negotiate with you, rather than impose their terms on you.

Your liability for loss or damage depends on the type of contract you choose. There are 4 types of carrier contract.

  1. Declared value risk – the carrier is liable for the amount stated in the contract.
  2. Owner's risk – you’re responsible for any loss or damage (unless it’s intentionally caused).
  3. Declared terms – the carrier’s liability depends on particular agreed terms in the contract.
  4. Limited carrier’s risk – the carrier is liable for up to $1,500 per unit of goods. This is also your default liability (that is, the default liability will apply if your contract doesn’t fall under any of the other 3 types of contract above).

For contracts signed from 17 June 2014, the limited carrier risk liability is $2,000 per unit of goods.

Carriers aren’t liable for loss or damage directly resulting from:

  • an inherent defect in the goods
  • goods that weren’t properly prepared and packed
  • a legal requirement that wasn’t met (for example, around the packing of dangerous goods)
  • goods that were taken from the carrier by legal process (for example, by a court bailiff)
  • incidents when the carrier was saving or trying to save life or property. 



What is a unit of goods?

A “unit of goods” refers to each separate item given to the carrier. What amounts to a unit of goods depends on the type of goods and the circumstances. The distinction is important because it defines the carrier’s liability.

A unit of goods will generally be a box. However, where items are split up, there may be several units.

  • Example: Elaine organises a carrier to shift her new bed at limited carrier’s risk (with a $2,000 liability on the carrier per unit of goods from 17 June 2014.

    If Elaine dismantles the bed base, headboard, and mattress, the carrier will transport 3 units of goods (even if they pack the items on 1 pallet). The carrier’s total liability is $6,000 ($2,000 per item)



Your rights when you use a carrier to transport goods

You have certain rights if the carrier provides faulty service. You also have certain rights for hand and checked-in luggage, lost or damaged goods, delays, and intentional damage.

Faulty service

When you arrange a carrier to transport goods for you, the carrier must meet the quality guarantees for service under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

If the carrier breaches these guarantees, you’re entitled to a remedy. If the fault is serious, the carrier may need to give you a full refund of the transport cost.

See Guarantees for services for more information. 

Hand and checked-in luggage

You’re responsible for hand luggage you keep with you during a trip, for example, on a plane or bus. However, the carrier must compensate you if that luggage is lost or damaged through their carelessness.

Checked luggage is treated the same as other transported goods. 

Lost or damaged goods

You can't claim consequential loss from the carrier under the Consumer Guarantees Act because their liability for loss or damage to the goods you carry is covered by the Carriage of Goods Act. The carrier’s liability will depend on the type of contract you have negotiated with them.

Find out more about the different Types of carriage contract.


The goods must be picked up and delivered during the period of time or at the time you agreed. Carriers generally exclude liability for delays, so make sure you read the contract carefully before you sign it. 

Intentional damage

If the carrier or their employee intentionally damages or loses your goods, the person at fault is liable for loss or damage to the full value of goods. You need to prove this and will require legal advice. 



Your rights when a business sends or delivers goods to you

If the goods arrive damaged, late, or not at all, the business that you bought the goods from is responsible under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

See Delivery guarantee – goods must arrive in acceptable condition and on time for more information.

If you ordered the goods before 17 June 2014

The business who sold you the goods is liable for loss or damage to the goods only until the carrier picked them up. Except where you can show a lack of skill and care by the business, for example, if they failed to pack the goods properly or gave the carrier the wrong address.



Making a complaint

Under the Carriage of Goods Act, you have 30 days to make a claim for loss or damage to goods. However, the carrier’s contract may specify a different time period – perhaps just a few days. The carrier is allowed to do this, so it's important to check the time period when you sign the contract.

If you can’t resolve a problem with the carrier, you may be able to take a claim to the Disputes Tribunal.

See Disputes Tribunal for more information.

Last updated 31 October 2014
[Internal link] Consumer law changes - Changes in consumer rights.

Consumer laws changed in 2014 and credit laws changed in 2015.

See Changes in consumer rights and Changes in credit laws for more information.




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