What are the rules?

It is illegal for traders to mislead consumers, give false information or use unfair trading practices.

This includes:

  • all aspects of the promotion and sale of goods and services
  • anything said about a product or service, either verbally or in writing
  • any impressions given by pictures, advertisements or promotional material.

The Fair Trading Act applies to anyone in trade – from big organisations like hotel chains, airlines and department stores, to small or temporary businesses like a souvenir stall or ice cream stand, and online sellers.

So you can make an informed decision about purchasing goods and services, traders must ensure the information they give you is accurate and important information is not withheld.

There are minimum guarantees that apply to all products and services acquired from a supplier and you can seek repairs, replacements or refunds when these are not as expected. This is covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act.

Products should:

  • be of acceptable quality
  • be fit for a particular purpose
  • arrive on time and in good condition
  • match the description, sample or demonstration
  • be supported by reasonably available spare parts and repair facilities (by manufacturers)
  • be sold with full ownership rights (or undisturbed possession if subject to a hire purchase or lease)
  • not have money owing that is not disclosed.

Services should be:

  • carried out with reasonable care and skill
  • fit for a particular purpose
  • carried out in a reasonable time
  • charged for at a reasonable price.

The Consumer Guarantees Act is self-enforcing, which means you can take your own action. If a guarantee is not met, you have the right to insist that the seller or service provider puts it right. For more information, go to the Consumer Protection website.

What can you do?

If you think that a product or service does not meet the above guarantees, or you feel you have been misled, you should speak to the trader you purchased from first – it is likely they will want to resolve the issue with you.

These dispute resolution services help people who want a refund or advice.

If you are seeking a refund, replacement product or compensation for a situation which has impacted you these are the places that will help you:

Free dispute resolution services

Free advice and advocacy

  • Community Law (advice and advocacy for contract, employment, family, housing legal issues, criminal matters, and human rights)
  • Citizens Advice Bureau (including Consumer Guarantees Act queries)

Court options

If you are unable to resolve your issue by talking to the trader, the Disputes Tribunal can be a quick and inexpensive way to help you resolve the dispute.

Go to the Disputes Tribunal website for more information or to make a claim.

We are responsible for enforcing the Fair Trading Act. If you feel as though you have been misled by a trader, you can call us on 0800 943 600 or make a complaint online