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Keep An Eye Out For Misleading Christmas Offers

Keep An Eye Out For Misleading Christmas Offers

The run up to Christmas is traditionally one of the busiest times of year for the Commerce Commission as shoppers call to voice their complaints about special offers or deals they believe to be misleading and unfair.

At this time of year the Commission sees a rise in complaints from consumers. The majority of complaints, over 70 percent, relate to the Fair Trading Act.

“Put simply, the Act relates to what consumers are told and what they see about a product prior to purchase, all those things that persuade them to buy in the first place,” said Adrian Sparrow, Commerce Commission Director of Fair Trading. The CCCF Act states what information about credit transactions consumers must be given and sῥts minimum standards for some contractual terms.

Complaints to the Commission cover a wide variety of issues from consumers feeling they have not been given genuine information about repayment terms or about hidden costs relating to the purchase or to reading information on packaging that may be misleading compared to the reality of the actual product.

“The Commerce Commission has some advice to help consumers steer clear of making costly mistakes with their purchases at this highly-pressured time of year. Knowing your rights and responsibilities goes a long way to ensuring you have a merry Christmas,” said Mr Sparrow.

The Commerce Commission’s advice for consumers this Christmas

 Don’t be misled. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
 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.
 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.
 It’s all too easy, especially at Christmas time, to think about the ‘now’. Think six months down the track. Will you be able to afford the repayments then?
 Interest free deals – check the terms and conditions of the contract and what your obligations are once the interest-free period is over.
 If you’ve signed a consumer credit contract and fall into hardship, there are provisions under the CCCF Act for hardship. The main thing to know is that you should act before you run the risk of defaulting, otherwise you can’t take advantage of this hardship provision.
 Watch out for sales. Chances are if you’re looking for a new TV you’ll know what price it was before it went on sale, so if you’re being told it is 50 percent 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.
 Ask yourself if you need an extended warranty. Shops and traders can be very keen to persuade you to sign up for these. The Consumer Guarantees Act should offer consumers enough protection for goods that might break down or that are faulty without the need for an extended warranty.
 Availability of goods – the Fair Trading Act requires businesses to supply advertised goods or services at the advertised price for a reasonable (or stated) period of time and in reasonable (or stated) quantities. Advertising goods or services that cannot be supplied so as to lure people into a shop is known as ‘bait advertisin™ and is a breach of thῥ Act. Consumers can report this to the Commerce Commission.
 Delivery of goods – ‘free delivery’ must mean just that. Adding the cost of delivery to the price and then claiming that delivery is free is deceptive and a breach of the Act.

The Fair Trading Act helps to protect consumers by prohibiting misleading or deceptive conduct in trade. It also provides for the disclosure of consumer information relating to the supply of goods and services and promotes product safety. Only the courts can give an authoritative ruling as to whether a behaviour breaches the Act and award appropriate penalties.

The Commission also enforces the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCF Act). Under the CCCF Act creditors must provide disclosure for consumer credit contracts from the start. This should be in writing and inform the consumer of what the contract means for them in terms of interest rates, fees, rules about the way payments are credited, what happens if the contract is repaid early, and other matters such as credit-related insurance, repayment waivers and extended warranties.

The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) applies to faulty goods. This Act is not enforced by the Commerce Commission. Individuals can take their own action under the CGA.


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