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Utilities now covered by consumer protection law

3 July 2003 Media Statement

Utilities now covered by consumer protection law

The Consumer Protection (Definition of Goods and Services) Bill, passed by Parliament today, creates a more level playing field for consumers and businesses, says Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard.

“This legislation enhances consumer law, and encourages industry and business to manage and meet consumers' legitimate expectations reasonably and sensibly,” said Judith Tizard.

“Some anomalies in existing law meant certain utility suppliers had no statutory obligation to deliver value for money to consumers. This has been corrected.”

The amended Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) now covers all products and services ordinarily supplied for domestic consumer use, including electricity, gas, water, and computer software as goods. It also covers network supply functions for electricity, gas, telecommunications, water and wastewater removal services.

“Since 1994 the CGA has been the cornerstone of our consumer laws providing some commonsense rules to protect the rights and remedies for consumers who purchase products and services that prove to be defective. Goods must be of acceptable quality. Services must be performed with reasonable care and skill.

“When things go wrong, the supplier or manufacturer has an opportunity to put things right except in serious cases. Then the consumer can choose to reject the goods or cancel the contract and get a refund.”

“Until now some traders were able to contract strategically to avoid liability. This legislation now makes the supplier in the supply chain, who is best placed to manage the risk of product failure, liable to the end-consumer for defects.

“This legislation aligns the definitions of goods and services in the Commerce Act, the Fair Trading Act, and the Consumer Guarantees Act. It has been in train for a long time. It was introduced in August 2001, and underwent Select Committee scrutiny. I am pleased that we now have improved and strengthened consumer protection legislation for a wider range of goods and services,” said Judith Tizard.


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