Who is responsible if my goods get damaged while they are being transported?
If you are sending goods by courier, arranging for furniture to be moved or travelling with luggage, then you will be covered by:
- the Contract and Commercial Law Act (Part 5, Subpart 1) - which covers the carrier's liability for loss or damage to items while they are with the carrier and
- the Consumer Guarantees Act which covers any other losses if the carrier doesn't carry out their service with reasonable skill or care.
This legislation applies to all goods carried by road, rail, sea or air within New Zealand except for New Zealand Post, which has its own rules.
If the carrier intentionally damaged your goods they would be liable for the full cost of replacing the goods. Otherwise, whether you can expect any compensation where your property is damaged by a carrier depends on the terms of the arrangement. Goods can be carried:
- at “limited carrier’s risk ” - the carrier will compensate you for unintentional damage or loss up to $2000 per item. Normally you have 30 days to make a claim to the carrier, but it’s important to check the contract because carriers are allowed to specify a shorter time period;
- at “owner’s risk” – the carrier is not liable for any unintentional loss or damage (This is relatively common in contracts for moving companies, so it is important to check what you are agreeing to before signing up with them.);
- at “declared value risk” – the carrier is liable for loss or damage to goods up to a value specified in the contract;
- “on declared terms” – all of the terms of the contract are negotiated between the carrier and the customer (this is usually only when the customer is a business), including the type of liability arrangement and how long you have to make a claim.
If you don’t have a written contract with the carrier then by default your goods will be carried at “limited carrier’s risk”.
If your contract says that your goods will be moved at “owner’s risk” then it’s a good idea to organise insurance. It is also worth having the movers agree with you on the condition of the goods prior to moving (you can for example take photographs), so that it’s easier to prove if they arrive at the destination in a worse condition.
If you and the carrier can’t agree on the liability for the damage of your goods, either party can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal.
You can find more information about the different types of liability on the "Examples" tab of the Moving and transporting goods page on the Consumer Protection website.
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The airline lost my luggage, which included an expensive pair of shoes. Does the airline have to pay to replace my things?
If this happened on a domestic flight, then under the Contract and Commercial Law Act the airline must compensate you for any loss of luggage – up to $2000 for each piece of luggage. The airline is also obliged, under the Consumer Guarantees Act, to carry out their transport service with reasonable skill and care. If the airline loses your luggage you normally have 30 days to make a claim but you should tell the airline as soon as possible. More about this is on the "What you need to know" tab of the Moving and transporting goods page, on the Consumer Protection website.
If your luggage went missing on an international flight then the airline’s liability is covered by the Montreal Convention. Under the Montreal Convention the airline has to compensate you up to $2000 in total for lost, damaged or delayed luggage. To make a claim for damage, write to the airline within seven days of getting your luggage back; to make a claim for delay or loss, you’ll have do so within 21 days.
Always read the fine print before you travel as each airline may have a slightly different policy.
If you have travel insurance you can also make a claim with your insurer.
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My concert plans were ruined because a courier didn’t deliver my tickets on time. What can I do?
If delivery was arranged by the ticket seller then the seller is responsible for ensuring that they arrive at the delivery address in an acceptable condition and on time. If they don’t, you are entitled to ask the seller for compensation (even if the damage or later delivery was caused by the courier company). If the seller disputes your claim, you can apply to the Disputes Tribunal for a decision.
If you had arranged the delivery, or you bought the goods in a private sale, then it is the courier company who has obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act to provide their service with reasonable care and skill. In this case, you should contact them as soon as possible if you think the delay in delivering your tickets was unreasonable.
Depending on the courier company's terms and conditions, you may be able to claim for the cost of the concert tickets, and possibly for any additional costs you incurred because you missed the concert (this is called ‘consequential loss' - more about this on the “What you need to know” tab on this Consumer Protection webpage).
If the courier company disputes your claim you may need to take them to the Disputes Tribunal to attempt to get compensation.
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The new book I ordered from a New Zealand online retailer arrived in a damaged condition. What are my rights?
Under the Consumer Guarantees Act the retailer is responsible for resolving the problem e.g. by sending you a new copy or giving you a refund. It’s their responsibility for ensuring that the goods arrive on time and in good condition.
The Consumer Guarantees Act doesn’t apply when you buy from an overseas-based retailer. However it is worth contacting the retailer anyway, as they may send you a replacement copy as a gesture of good will. Otherwise you can contact the company which was contracted to deliver the item (e.g. a courier company). There’s more about this, and what to do if a couriered item doesn’t arrive at all, on our Receiving mail page.
You can also read more about buying online and what to do if there is a problem with an online or mail order purchase.