Unsafe goods 

How can I know that a product is safe to buy?

If you are buying consumer goods from a business, the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) and the Fair Trading Act (FTA) provide some protection against those goods being unsafe.

Under the CGA retailers, manufacturers and importers are responsible for ensuring that goods are of acceptable quality and fit for purpose – whether they are new or second hand, Goods that are unsafe fail these requirements and this means you can ask for it to be repaired or replaced or to get a refund. More about the Consumer Guarantees Act is on our Basic consumer rights page.

Under the FTA, certain types of goods must meet the relevant product safety standard (see the next question). 

You can find out whether a particular product has been subject to a product safety recall or alert, by checking the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Recalls website

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What are Product Safety Standards?

Product safety standards are enforced by the Commerce Commission.

There are product safety standard regulations for:

These standards exist to ensure that certain goods meet essential safety standards. Product safety standards look at the nature of the product and its performance as well as any warnings that need to be on the product. Product safety standards also cover the tests a product needs to go through after it has been made. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Consumer Protection website has more information about standards, including safety advice for the use of specific products.

Goods which don’t have a Product Safety Standard still need to meet safety standards under the Consumer Guarantees Act. This means that goods need to be of ‘acceptable quality’, which includes being safe and durable.

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I want to make sure a child’s cot is safe before I buy it. What should I do?

You are right to check on this and other such products for babies and children.

Anything which is covered by a Product Safety Standard has to meet that standard, including children’s cots. Read all the labels and instructions carefully and make sure if you need to put it together that you know what you’re doing and you follow the instructions. Retailers should have trained staff who can give you all the information you need to make an informed choice.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Consumer Protection website has a very useful section on choosing safe products for kids.

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I want to complain about a product that I bought recently. I believe it is unsafe. Who can help me?

If you think a product is unsafe you can contact the retailer to ask for a replacement or refund. You should also contact Consumer Protection (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) (either online or by calling 0508 627 774) to report it. The Commerce Commission can investigate the complaints about products that have a product safety standard or have an unsafe goods notice attached to them.

You can find out whether a particular product has been subject to a product safety recall or alert, by checking the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Recalls website.

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How can I make sure electrical goods I buy from a garage sale will work safely?

All second hand electrical goods sold must be electrically safe. You should always look for a label signed by a competent person, e.g. an electrician, showing that the product has been tested and the date of that testing. This is an Electrical Safety Certificate and you shouldn’t buy a product without one.

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The toaster I bought turned out to be faulty and caused damage to my kitchen wall. What can I do?

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act you are entitled to a remedy when goods turn out to be faulty.

If the product causes you to suffer loss because there is a problem with it, then under the Consumer Guarantees Act you can claim for compensation for consequential loss – even if the trader has tried to contract out of this responsibility. In your case you can claim from the trader the costs of repairing damage to your kitchen wall as a result of the toaster being faulty.

The compensation for consequential loss should put you back in the position you would have been in if the goods or service hadn't been faulty. You do have a responsibility to minimise damage once you are aware of what is happening. As soon as you realise your faulty toaster is causing damage to your walls you should probably stop using it. Also, a trader’s responsibility is not unlimited and will only be for foreseeable loss.

If your complaint to the trader was unsuccessful, you can try making a claim to the Disputes Tribunal.

You’ll find useful information about making a complaint and escalating it, on our Complaints and disputes pages.

More about consequential loss and how to go about claiming compensation for it is on the 'What to do' tab of the Consumer Protection faulty products page.