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Christmas shopping tips from Consumer NZ

Christmas shopping tips from Consumer NZ

The Christmas countdown clock is ticking loudly. But never fear - Consumer NZ can help guide you through the chaos and take the silly out of the season. We offer some tips below.

Gift vouchers can seem a great solution to the stress of trying to pick out the perfect gift. But even this fool-proof option has caveats. Though you exchange vouchers for goods, they're not the same as cash. If you lose a voucher, it's too bad. The exception is if it's made out to a specific person and marked "not transferable", which means the trader might have a record of it.

Also, keep a track of the expiry date, because once it's passed the trader has no obligation to honour the voucher. And if the business goes bust or changes hands, the voucher might be worth no more than a piece of paper.

Gift cards are pretty much the same but in a credit card form. They may cost extra in fees to use, for example to check your balance. They also tend to have an expiry date but it might not be shown on the card, so check this when you buy it. Also, the store might be able to cancel the card.

Returns and exchanges - if you're braving the non-voucher route but are still worried about the "rightness" of your gift, you can always give the gift of the easy return. To do so you'll need to arrange this beforehand with the retailer. Generally you'll need a proof of purchase, such as a receipt, and the item should be unused and packaging sealed. Remember, there's a time limit on returns - so make sure your recipient is aware of this.

The gift of safety - We've found that a third of children's products we've tested over the past five years have had serious faults that cause safety problems. As well, some electronic goods - especially ones bought over the internet - might be hazardous if they don't comply with NZ safety standards.
Check kids' stuff is covered by safety standards - look for Australia/NZ (AS/NZS), British (BS), American (ASTMor CFR) and European (EN) standards. And be careful when buying second-hand - even those covered by a standard might be out-of-date or damaged. Make sure you have proper instructions for setting up nursery products so you can do it correctly and safely.

Check the voltage of electronics - they must be 230 volts and 50 Hertz to be safe. Legal electronics should have a Supplier Declaration of Conformity to back them up.

Boxing day sales are the gift after Christmas, but keep your head and shop savvy. Check prices at more than one store to make sure items are really a bargain. You can easily do that online or look through your newspaper. Make sure you really want the things you buy, because you can't return them just because you changed your mind. And most of all - just because something's on sale doesn't mean the trader can get out of the Consumer Guarantees Act - they still have to put things right if the item is broken or defective. The only exception to this is if they stated clearly that this is the reason the item was on sale.

And with these tips, Consumer NZ wishes you a happy and non-silly silly season!

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