Returning goods 

When can I return goods?

You can return goods to the retailer and ask for a refund, replacement or compensation if:

  • you bought goods from a trader for consumer purposes and
  • the goods don’t do what they are supposed to (e.g. they are broken) and 
  • the problem is serious

If the retailer has a returns policy which allows customers to return goods (e.g. because they’ve changed their mind about the goods) then you can take the goods back even if there’s nothing wrong with them. The policy may specify that you have to exchange the returned goods for something else (instead of giving you a refund) – this is known as a credit note.

If you bought goods using store finance, but haven’t received a statement about your right to cancel the contract, you can cancel the credit contact and the contract to buy the goods, and return the goods.   

If you bought goods or services worth $100 or more from someone who approached you uninvited (e.g. door-to-door or by phone – this is known as an uninvited direct sale), you have the right to cancel within five working days of the purchase, return the goods and get your money back. Once you have been repaid you must allow the seller to take away the goods from your address.

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When don’t I have the right to return goods?

You don’t have the right to return goods just because you’ve changed your mind about them, unless the retailer has a returns policy which allows you to do this. Their policy may specify that the goods must be in the same condition that they were in when you purchased them, etc.

You also don’t have the right to return goods which were given to you as a gift, unless the retailer has a returns policy which allows this or there is a serious fault with the goods. Many retailers are willing to give the buyer an exchange card at the time of purchase, which can be used if the person receiving the gift would rather exchange it for something else at the shop.

If you bought goods for consumer purposes, and the goods don’t do what they are supposed to (e.g. they are broken) but the problem is minor; it is the retailer’s decision whether to give you a refund or get the goods repaired for you instead (more about this below).

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My laptop broke and I want to return it, but the retailer is only offering to fix it. What are my rights?

Assuming that your laptop didn’t break due to gross negligence on your part (e.g. you left it open on the sofa and then absentmindedly sat on it) and you are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) then you are entitled to a remedy.

In general you have the right to reject goods and demand a refund if the problem with those goods is major, if the problem is minor then the retailer can decide whether to fix it, replace it or refund your money.

Under the CGA, the problem with your laptop is serious if:

  • a reasonable consumer wouldn’t have bought it if they had known it would break so easily or
  • it is significantly different to what was described to you or
  • it’s not fit for purpose and can’t easily be made fit for purpose or 
  • it is unsafe.

If this describes your situation then you need to return the laptop to the retailer and tell them in writing that you reject it.

Read more about this on the Consumer Protection (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) website, or find more information about complaining effectively on our Complaints and Disputes pages. 

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Does the retailer have the right to give me store credit instead of a refund?

If you’ve returned the goods because they have a serious fault or are not fit for purpose, then the retailer cannot insist on giving you store credit instead of a refund.

If you’ve returned goods because you’ve simply changed your mind then it is up to the retailer whether to accept the return and whether they will refund you or give you store credit.

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Can I return goods that were bought on sale?

If there is a serious problem with a consumer product you bought, then you can return the item and ask for a refund even if it was bought at a discount price (or even a gift).

If you want to return it simply because you changed your mind about it, then it is up to the retailer whether they will accept it and refund your money.

Read the information elsewhere on this page about when you can return goods and when you can’t.

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I bought a jacket online from a retailer but they supplied the wrong size. They won’t send the right size until they sell the returned jacket and are charging me for returning it. Can they do that?

Your rights in this situation will depend on whether the retailer you bought it from is based in New Zealand.

If they are a New Zealand retailer then they have to comply with the same laws that apply to counter sales. Goods have to match their description and if they don’t you have the right to have the problem fixed by the retailer. This has to be done within a reasonable time-frame and at no extra cost to you. If the retailer won’t help you within a reasonable time then you have the right to ask for a full refund.

If the retailer is based overseas then you’re not in a great position because they are not bound by New Zealand consumer law. In this situation your best option is to try and negotiate directly with them.

Most online retailers invite customers to leave feedback about their service – it’s worth making use of this to let them (and other consumers) know what you think about how the problem has been handled.

You might be interested in reading our tips for working out whether you can trust a particular online seller.