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Some festive season tips for consumers

Hon Judith Tizard

Minister of Consumer Affairs

15 December 2005 Media Statement

Some festive season tips for consumers – exchanges, returns and gift vouchers

Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard says Christmas is a special and fun time for getting together with family and friends and exchanging gifts, but it’s important to know what to do when a gift is 'not quite right'.

"We put lots of time and effort into finding gifts that we hope our loved ones will enjoy, and we are usually successful. But sometimes we don't quite get it right. Perhaps you already have the gift, maybe the colour wasn't quite you, or you'd like to swap for something more suitable. What can you do?”

"Contrary to popular belief, retailers are not obliged by law to refund or exchange gifts if they're the wrong size or colour, or the gift recipient doesn’t like them. But many retailers choose to do so. You should take the gift back and ask. If they're not keen on giving you a refund, see if they'll exchange the gift, or give you a credit note for the store.”

Retailers, however, may be obliged to refund, replace, or repair gifts if they are faulty or damaged, said Judith Tizard. “When you buy something, the law says it must be of acceptable quality. That means it must be fit for its normal purpose, acceptable in finish and appearance, free from minor defects, safe, and last a reasonable time for that type of good.”

Exchanges and returns

It is a good idea to ask for an exchange card when you purchase gifts for other people. Here are some tips if you find yourself in a situation where you want or need to exchange or return a gift:

- Check whether the sender thoughtfully gave you an exchange card. Exchange cards should allow you to swap the goods for something of equal value from that store. Make sure you use them promptly as exchange cards may only be valid for a short time after Christmas, so check for an expiry date.

- Didn't get an exchange card? If you know where the gift came from, and it is in its original wrapping, take it back to the store to ask whether they will agree to exchange it. Otherwise, you may have to ask the person who gave you the gift if they have the receipt or could exchange it for you. And remember to keep your receipts, too.

- If a gift turns out to be faulty, the Consumer Guarantees Act gives the recipient of the goods rights to have the goods repaired, or in serious situations may give rights to a refund. If a gift is faulty contact the retailer as soon as you can.

- A manufacturer's warranty should apply to you too, even if you didn't buy the goods yourself.

“I encourage both customers and retailers to think about what's reasonable and fair. If you aren’t sure about your rights and responsibilities as a retailer or a customer, contact your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau for advice,” said Judith Tizard.

Gift vouchers

If you receive gift vouchers for Christmas, here are some things you can do to make sure you get the most out of them:

- Keep gift vouchers in a safe place. It's best to use them as soon as you get them. If not, you may find that the store no longer stocks what interested you in the first place, the store may have been sold to another company that does not have to honour the gift voucher.

- Always check for expiry dates and other terms and conditions of use. These should all be printed on the voucher itself. And remember: gift vouchers can't be exchanged for cash, only for goods and services.

"These tips should help consumers to get the maximum satisfaction and enjoyment out of the gift-giving season," says Judith Tizard.


ENDS

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