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Consumer Rights Day puts spotlight on online shopping traps

March 15 marks World Consumer Rights Day. Consumer organisations are using the day to call for better protection for consumers from online shopping traps.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says the number of shoppers buying goods online has grown at a dizzying pace, but so too have unfair practices.

“More than two million Kiwis are shopping online, spending over $4 billion every year. But unfair practices, such as adding sneaky booking or service fees to prices, are hitting consumers’ wallets,” Ms Chetwin says.

Consumer NZ research found extra fees added to the advertised price could be costing shoppers as much as $68 million each year.

“We’re calling for stricter pricing rules to make sure consumers aren’t misled about what they have to pay. Retailers shouldn’t get away with hiding extra fees in the fine print,” Ms Chetwin says.

Unfair and unclear contracts are also tripping up online shoppers, she says.

“A common example is making a one-off purchase of a product and then finding you’ve been signed up to an ongoing service. When retailers don’t make the terms of an offer clear, they risk misleading consumers and breaching the Fair Trading Act.”

Consumer NZ is encouraging anyone stung by a hidden fee or an unfair term to contact it at playfair@consumer.org.nz.

Consumer NZ’s rules for online shopping

1. Check who you’re dealing with: Check the trader has a physical address and phone number, whether it’s New Zealand-based or not. Be aware a website with a.co.nz domain name doesn’t mean the trader is based here and it’s no guarantee you’re buying locally.
2. Check the price: Think you’ve found the best price possible on the web? Online retailers are notorious for luring shoppers with a headline price that turns out to be not that sharp when service, delivery and credit card fees are added. Shop around to see whether the price is right before you buy.
3. Pay by card: Use a debit or credit card to shop online – that way you can apply for a chargeback from your bank if the goods don’t show up.
4. Check the site’s security: Look for a small padlock symbol near the address bar in your browser and check the address starts with “https” (the “s” stands for secure) rather than the standard “www” or “http”.
5. Know your rights: The Consumer Guarantees Act has you covered when you’re buying from a company trading in our market. If the goods are faulty, you can ask the retailer to put things rights.

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