Exchanging or returning lemons after Christmas

  • Judith Tizard
Consumer Affairs

What do you do when you’ve recovered from Christmas festivities and realise that some of the gifts you have received aren’t right for you, are damaged or don’t work?

Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard has some tips for consumers to help with this predicament.

“Contrary to popular belief, retailers do not have to refund or exchange gifts if you don’t like them or they're the wrong size or colour. However, some retailers may choose to do so," says Judith Tizard.

If they're not willing to give you a refund, ask if they'll exchange the gift, or give you a credit note for the store.

If gifts are faulty or damaged, retailers are obliged to refund, replace, or repair them.

“When you buy something, the law says it must be of acceptable quality – it must be fit for the normal purpose, with an acceptable finish and appearance. It should also be free from minor defects, safe, and last a reasonable time for that type of goods.”

Here's some tips from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs on returning or exchanging goods:

  • Check whether the sender has given you an exchange card which will allow you to swap the goods for something of equal or more value (if you pay the difference) from that store. Use them promptly; exchange cards may only be valid for a short time after Christmas.
  • Didn't get an exchange card? If you know where the gift came from, and it’s in its original wrapping, take it back to the store and ask whether they will exchange it. Otherwise, you may have to ask the person who gave you the gift if they could exchange it for you, or if they have the receipt.
  • If a gift turns out to be faulty and the fault is minor, the Consumer Guarantees Act gives the receiver of the goods rights to remedy the situation. The trader may choose to replace or refund the item, or have the goods repaired.
  • If the fault is serious you can also choose to have a refund or replacement, or keep the goods but ask for compensation to make up for the drop in value caused by the fault.
  • A manufacturer's warranty should apply to you too, even if you didn't buy the goods yourself.

“Gift vouchers are also a great Christmas gift and allow you can choose exactly what you want. But check the expiry date and other terms and conditions of use. These should all be printed on the voucher itself. And remember, gift vouchers can't be exchanged for cash, only for goods and services.

"Christmas is about enjoying time with our family and friends and these tips should help consumers to get the maximum satisfaction and enjoyment out of the gifts they give and receive," says Judith Tizard.

  • For further information on the Consumer Guarantees Act, visit the Ministry of Consumer Affair’s website at www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz