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Bill's Law - Christmas Questions - 6 Dec

Christmas Questions

This week Bill answers some viewer questions which may help people as we move ever closer to Christmas.

Viewer Question: #1

I have a question in relation to a consumer's right to return goods if they change their mind and don't want them anymore. I understood that consumers had three days to return goods they'd purchased if they change their mind but when I tried to do this recently the shop staff just laughed and refused to take the goods back. What is the law in relation to this as they just made me feel stupid ?

There's a myth that a consumer has three days to change their mind, return goods and get a cash refund.
Under the Consumer Guarantees Act gives the consumer only has a right to reject goods and get a cash refund if there has been a substantial breach of one of the guarantees contained in this Act.
If for example the goods aren't of an "acceptable quality" and are so defective that they would not have been purchased by a "reasonable consumer, fully acquainted" with the defect, then they can be rejected and returned. This breach needs to be promptly brought to the supplier's attention.
The consumer has a choice of refund or replacement in these circumstances so don't be bullied into an offer of "credit" when you want a cash refund.

Q: What about shops that promise a money back guarantee if your not satisfied ?

Even though a consumer may not have a right to a refund under the Consumer Guarantees Act, the store may well have a policy that gives the consumer rights over and above those found in the Act. If for example, the supplier says it has a "free trial" period allowing the consumer to "try before you buy", then the right to a refund may exist whether the goods are faulty or not. The right to a refund in these cases arises out of the contract between the supplier and the consumer. However it is advisable in such a case, to ensure that the "free trial" offer is documented in writing and the goods are returned within any specified timeframe.

Q: Where does this idea of a 3 day return period come from ?

Under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act a consumer who signs a consumer credit contract has a right to cancel the entire contract within three working days...provided the goods are left with the supplier. (Eg. If you buy a car on HP and drive the car away on the same cant cancel the purchase....but you can cancel the credit contract). This has to be done in writing with in 3 days of purchase and the cash price has to be paid to the dealer within 15 days of cancellation

Viewer Question: #2

I recently purchased what I've subsequently found out to be a very expensive computer programme for my children. The salesman that came knocking at my door convinced me that the maths programme he was selling was well worth the money and that I was investing in my children's future. I now have to pay almost $9,000 for something that I've been told is way overpriced. Can I get out of this contract ?

Where the first point of contact is a salesman knocking at your door, any resulting contract is covered by the Door to Door Sales Act. Whenever a consumer buys goods or services from a door to door salesman, they have 7 days to cancel the contract. The contract must be in writing and must highlight the 7 day statutory cancellation right. The salesman must also provide the consumer with a cancellation form which the consumer can fill out within the 7 day period after the agreement is signed and return to the supplier.
The consumer can either personally deliver the completed cancellation notice to the supplier or send it by registered letter. They could also fax the notice to the supplier and get confirmation it has been received, just to make sure the supplier knows that the deal has been called off.
If the 7 day period has already expired then the cancellation right also expires.

Q: What happens if the cancellation notice and form are not included in the sale agreement and the consumer doesn't know about this right ?

The door to door sales contract must contain the notice and cancellation form. The 7 day period only starts when all the information required under the Door to Door Sales Act is provided to the consumer.
If the information isn't there then the consumer can cancel at anytime.
What the viewer should do is check very carefully all of the documents she has signed and the information she has been given by the supplier. If the Act hasn't been complied with then she may well still be able to cancel this very expensive door to door sales agreement. If she needs help then go to the nearest CAB or community law centre for assistance.