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August 1, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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The Consumer Guarantees Act: An Act Guaranteed To Confuse You

You know the story: you’ve bought that shiny new laptop with your summer earnings, plus a little bit of your Course-Related Costs. It’s the best. But after 13 months, it decides to break down.

You go back to the company and complain in the hope of obtaining some sort of repair or replacement. They don’t want to hear any of this, saying something along the lines of “I’m sorry, it’s out of warranty.”

It seems slightly unfair, doesn’t it? Well, this being the Justice issue, it’s time to help you to use the full extent of the law to protect you and your rights. From talking to various students, it is evident that we’re often taken advantage of—and it shouldn’t be this way.

The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) is essentially a piece of law that states that the goods (or services) you purchased must be of an acceptable quality, and fit for the particular purpose that you would have purchased it for. The main bit that gets people excited is the part of the Act that states that a good must last for a ‘reasonable’ period—and of course what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ period is open to interpretation.

A great way of finding out what might be considered ‘reasonable’ in your circumstances is going through previous cases and seeing what they have claimed for. I found one about a Dell computer where they ruled that five years was a reasonable period of time to expect a laptop to last. Another good way of finding out is to check the extended warranty: if there is an option to extend it to three years, than the company would at the very least regard a ‘reasonable’ time span for your product to be three years.

Now we’ve sorted out what it actually means, let’s talk about how to put it into practice. The first thing to do is to go to the place you bought it from and calmly explain the situation, as well as quoting the CGA. This often has limited success, due to a number of excuses put forward by the company’s representative. The main one is that “it is the manufacturer’s responsibility, not ours”. This is utterly inaccurate and borderline illegal. It is the retailer’s legal responsibility to adhere to the Consumer Guarantees Act, and in no way can they ‘opt-out’, even if they put up a sign saying ‘no refunds’.

If the above doesn’t work, kindly request to talk to the store manager—they sometimes know the law to a coherent level. If this doesn’t work, then you may have to write a letter to the head office of the company, or pursue tribunal action. This would cost you around $40-$60 and takes around three months to go to court. However, if they’re being difficult, you can take the goods to be repaired by a technician, and try to claim back the repair costs in court.

There are a few common questions that people ask about the CGA—firstly, if the CGA applies for services. The answer: yes. The conditions are similar as with goods, except there are provisions for time, as well as what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ cost if a precise sum had not been agreed on beforehand. The second question you might ask regards auctions, especially Trade Me. Auctions aren’t covered under the CGA, but because of the Consumer Guarantees Amendment Act 2010, Trade Me is now covered.

Finally, you might wonder if there is any point in buying an extended warranty. As the CGA doesn’t cover commercial use, fair wear and tear or software issues, it can be a good idea. Sometimes warranties cover useful extra stuff, like automatic replacement/refund if found faulty (the CGA has a provision for this, but only if the fault is of a substantial nature), and/or free technical support. A few friends of mine have also bought them because they had been heavily discounted and they would rather pay a small amount then to go through the hassle of applying the CGA to manufacturers, retailers, etc.

In the end, you have rights under the law for your goods and services, so go out there and use them with authority. Instead of crying over the laptop that has broken down outside of warranty, go out there and get justice—that’s what the law is for! *

If you need any further help on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact me at william.guzzo@futurecentric.co.nz.

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