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Like a bull in a china shop

Like a bull in a china shop

08 September 2014

Taking small children out shopping can be stressful! Kids love to explore and their little hands love to touch. But what happens when your little bundle of joy acts like a bull in a china shop and breaks something?

Supervising children
The law says you have to ‘exercise due care’. This means you must take reasonable care not to damage whatever goods you are handling.

If you bring children into a shop, you are responsible for supervising them. If you don't look after them and they break something, the store can ask you to pay for goods that have been broken.

If the shop staff saw your child handling the goods and didn't take reasonable steps to stop damage from occurring you may not be liable for all the loss.

Ultimately, you’re responsible for supervising young children in your care. Don't rely on the shop staff to watch your child.

Store at fault
Sometimes the store may have caused or contributed directly to the damage. For example: If items are stacked or displayed on an unstable shelf, then the store can't ask you to pay for the damaged goods, as the store itself did not take adequate care.

You break it, you buy it
“You break it, you buy it” warning signs may have no legal effect. Whether you have to pay the store for a breakage will depend on whether you failed to take care.

But, a store can display a sign warning you to take care around goods that they know are fragile and need careful handling. For example: "Please ask a sales assistant if you would like to look at these goods" or “Do not touch.”

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Paying for damage
This depends on the value of the product and perhaps any loss of profit from the store now being unable to sell those goods to another customer. In many cases the loss will equal the retail price of the goods.

Accidental damage
You may not have to pay for the damaged goods when an event outside of your control leads or contributes to the damage.

For example: you have to move quickly to the exit of the shop because of a fire alarm. On the way you are pushed by the crowd and upset a table with glasses on it. In this case it is unlikely you would pay for the broken glasses as:
• it is reasonable to take care of yourself rather than property when your life may be at risk
• other factors contributed to the damage (the crowd pushing you).

If the shop demands that you pay, but you don't think you're responsible
Explain to them why you do not think you should have to pay. You may want to do this in writing and at a later date. They cannot force you to pay up there and then. If they still want to claim the money from you, the shop could take you to the Disputes Tribunal but they will have to prove you were careless.

Personal liability cover
If the item damaged is of significant value and you are at fault, it may be worth filing a claim with your insurance company. Many house contents policies include personal liability damage that covers this situation.

Need more information?

• For information on consumer issues, visit: www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz
• For information on Shop Stock Breakages [www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz/for-consumers/shopping/shop-stock-breakages].

Check to make sure information is up to date
We want you to be certain the information you use is not out-of-date. If this article is more than three months old Contact us [www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz/about-ca/contact-us] to check information is still correct.


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