The mail order, or "direct marketing", business has grown dramatically in the last few years. Now in many cases you do not need to leave your home to buy goods. With the growth of the Internet, this industry will only continue to expand (see How to protect yourself when buying on the Internet).
There are obvious disadvantages with buying goods by mail, but these can be minimised by finding out certain facts before you enter into an agreement. Further, if you are buying from a New Zealand supplier you will be covered by this country's consumer-protection laws just as if you had bought the goods in a shop (see below).
Before entering into any agreement to buy goods through the mail, you should find out certain facts:
If the mail order company is in New Zealand, you will be protected by the CONSUMER GUARANTEES ACT 1993 against the goods being defective (see How to exercise your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act). The Act requires goods to:
You have no protection under the Act if you buy from an overseas trader. However, you may be able to obtain assistance from consumer agencies in the supplier's home country. The NZ Ministry of Consumer Affairs gives advice and relevant links about this on its website at www.consumer-ministry.govt.nz, "Shopping on the Internet".
If you return the goods to a New Zealand supplier because the goods are faulty or because they don't match the description given, your protection under the Act entitles you to claim from the supplier the cost of returning the goods.
If you discover that your cheque has been cashed but you have not received the goods, you should immediately contact the seller. If its explanation is not satisfactory, you can contact the Commerce Commission and make a complaint under the FAIR TRADING ACT 1986 (see How to: Protection under the Fair Trading Act). It is also open to you to take your own legal action under that Act, in which case you should consult a lawyer.
You may also have a cause of action against the seller for breach of contract or fraud.
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