With the Christmas shopping season in full swing the Commerce Commission is reminding consumers and retailers about consumers' rights when buying goods in store or online.

December is one of the busiest times of the year for retail sales and Commissioner Anna Rawlings says it is a good time to remember that there are important consumer protection laws in place that traders must follow.

“The Fair Trading Act (FTA) contains provisions that are designed to make sure that traders provide accurate information to consumers that they can rely on when purchasing goods and services.”

“For example retailers must make sure that advertised discounts offer a genuine saving from the “usual” or previous price. They should also not mislead consumers about things such as hidden costs, delivery times or the quality of an item,” she said.

Ms Rawlings says the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA) also contains important provisions to protect consumers when they’re borrowing money or buying goods on credit. The Act requires lenders to provide key information to borrowers about their contract before they enter into it and to act in accordance with the lender responsibility principles.

“Both the FTA and CCCFA apply to both in store and on-line transactions. Consumers contact us about a wide variety of issues such as not being given accurate information about their credit repayment terms or being misled about a particular deal.”

“We are also seeing a significant increase in complaints about online trading which was the subject of twice as many reports as store based trading last year. Wherever you shop, we have some advice to help consumers look out for themselves this December,” she said.

The Commission’s top tips for consumers this Christmas

  1. Don't be misled. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. If you don't understand something, don't be afraid to ask. It's your hard-earned money you're spending after all, so make sure you fully understand the deal.
  3. Be clear about your rights and obligations under any credit contract you enter into. If you don't understand the contract, don't be pressured to sign it. Get some advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or community law centre if you need to.
  4. It's all too easy, especially at Christmas time, to think about the 'now'. Think about whether you will be able to afford your repayments 6 months down the track. Your creditor/lender should check your financial situation with you.
  5. Interest free deals – check the terms and conditions of the contract and what your obligations are once the interest-free period is over.
  6. Watch out for sales and do your research. If you're looking for a new TV find out what price it was before it went on sale. Then if you're being told it is 50% off you'll know if this is genuine or not. If you have doubts about the genuineness of the sale, shop around and compare prices.

  7. Ask yourself if you need an extended warranty. Traders must tell you what benefits a warranty offers above what is already available to you under the Consumer Guarantees Act. Think about whether you are better protected with an extended warranty than without one, whether you want or need an extended warranty, and whether it is worth the money.