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August 5, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Laying Down the Law – Hurry Up With My Damn Croissants

I went to possibly the worst cafe in the world during the break. All I wanted was a decent eggs Benedict and a good cup of coffee to soak up the previous evening’s debauchery, but for my $25 I got two hard-boiled eggs, burnt toast and cold Hollandaise. Naturally, I complained to my friends a lot, and I wrote a scathing review on TripAdvisor—but I didn’t complain to the staff. The next day (when I ran out of money) I really wished that I’d asked for my money back.

Complaining can be pretty awkward though—especially if you don’t know what rights you actually have. Luckily, I’ve got your back. Next time your new MacBook Pro stops working for no reason, you can take it back to the shop, and tell them I said they have to repair, refund, or replace it—without feeling awkward. The law’s on your side.

Most of what you need to know when you’re in that situation is in the Consumer Guarantees Act. It’s not particularly exciting reading, but the gist of it is that if you buy something and it’s not of “acceptable quality”, then you have a right of redress against the manufacturer or the supplier. That means it has to be fit for its purpose, free of defects, and it has to keep working for a reasonable length of time. How long is “reasonable” will depend on what the product is—for example, you can probably expect a new computer to last for five years, even if it’s only under warranty for one year.

You’re covered by the Act any time you buy consumer goods or services, but not if you buy something in an auction, or if you buy something that would normally be for business use. You’re not covered if you’ve used the goods in a way that a reasonable consumer wouldn’t—so if you took your iPhone for a swim in the harbour on Friday night, or spilt a cup of coffee over your laptop, then you’re out of luck—but in every other situation, you’re entitled to a repair, refund, or replacement.

That also means that often when you pay extra for an extended warranty, you’re just wasting your money. It pays to read the terms of a warranty carefully, but most of the time you’re not getting anything more than the rights you already have.

So the take-home message is to know your rights when you’re making a big purchase. And if something goes wrong, don’t be a dick, but be assertive. If that doesn’t work, you can go to the Disputes Tribunal (it’s relatively cheap and you don’t need a lawyer), although if your complaint is that your eggs Benedict is cold and disgusting you should probably just ask the chef to try again.

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