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Consumer Complaints Continue To Add Value

The latest snapshot of consumer complaints to the Commerce Commission shows little variation in the number of complaints, down just 22 from 9,892 in the year to 30 June 2020 to 9,870 in the year to 30 June 2021.

The Commission releases the annual snapshot to give consumers and businesses insight into consumer complaints during the year.

Commission Chair Anna Rawlings said every complaint the Commission receives matters.

“While we are not able to investigate every complaint, the information we receive through complaints is very valuable. We focus on issues that are likely to have the most impact on consumers and markets, and complaints help us to better understand where to focus our efforts. They also show us where consumers need better information about their rights, and where businesses need more information to help them to comply with the law."

Complaints inform the guidance and resources the Commission develops to help consumers and businesses, and the advice it gives to policy makers about the laws it enforces.

“We want consumers to know that we want to hear from them and we value what they tell us. We also hope our complaints snapshot is useful to businesses looking to assess their own compliance,” said Ms Rawlings.

As in previous years, most of the complaints received last year related to the Fair Trading Act. There were 8,792 complaints relating to the Fair Trading Act, 331 relating to the Commerce Act and 273 relating to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act.

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Of the Fair Trading Act complaints, appliance and electronics retailers attracted a large number of complaints – 579 – with motor vehicle retailers attracting 564 complaints and supermarkets/grocery stores attracting 517 complaints.

A complaint does not necessarily mean the law has been broken and larger industries are likely to generate more complaints because they have many more customers.

The Commission’s website provides a wide range of resources for both consumers and businesses about their rights and obligations under the laws it enforces.

Consumers can make a complaint to the Commission through its website, by calling 0800 943 600 or by email to contact@comcom.govt.nz

Background

Changes to the Fair Trading Act 1986
In August Parliament passed the Fair Trading Amendment Bill 2019, introducing important changes to the Fair Trading Act 1986 (the FT Act) including significant new protections to address unfair practices:

  • Traders cannot engage in unconscionable conduct – the term itself is not defined in the FT Act, but there is a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider when assessing whether conduct is ‘unconscionable’. This includes whether unfair pressure or tactics were used, any undue influence, and whether parties acted in good faith.
  • The unfair contract terms framework now covers standard form small trade contracts, which previously only applied to standard form consumer contracts.
  • Consumers can direct uninvited direct sellers to leave or not enter their property.

These important changes will come into effect on 16 August 2022. Other provisions come into force straight away on 17 August 2021, including:

  • Management banning orders are broadened to capture a wider scope of conduct.
  • Businesses selling extended warranties over the phone will have 5 working days after the date the agreement is made to give consumers a written copy of their extended warranty agreement.

Changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 (CCCFA)

The Government introduced a range of

changes to the CCCFA and CCCF

Regulations which come into effect in stages between December 2019 and December 2021.

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