What are my rights when I buy from an online retailer?

R_CAB-wideRefunds are not your right if you change your mind.

If you buy from a New Zealand retailer then you are protected by New Zealand consumer law just like an over the counter sale. The retailer is required to provide clear and easy to find information about their terms and conditions, and it’s worth checking these to find out what to expect regarding returns, warranties and how long delivery might take.

If you are buying from an overseas retailer then you don’t have much protection at all so it’s a good idea to carefully check who you are buying from. Most established international online retailers try to provide good customer service because it is good for their business, so if you have a problem with something you bought from them they will usually try to help you resolve it. If you have a problem with a purchase from an overseas retailer and you are unable to sort it out, you can make a complaint at econsumer.gov (econsumer.govt is an international initiative which provides a way for consumers to report complaints about overseas traders. Complaints are recorded on a database which participating government agencies can access). They won’t be able to act on your behalf but the information you provide can be used to help prevent international scams.

I’m not sure about handing over my credit card details for an online purchase. How do I make sure it is safe? Before you decide to buy anything online you need to check that the website uses a good security system to protect any personal information you enter into it. Information about their privacy and security policies should be in clear and simple language that you can understand.

Some of the things you should check include:

  • Do they have proper contact details, e.g. phone, email and street address?
  • Do they use a secure online payment system? Most websites will have an image of a small closed padlock somewhere on their secure page that shows it is a secure site. If a website begins with “https://” instead of the usual “http://” then it is probably reasonably secure.
  • Do they have a complaints policy, and an easy way to lodge complaints?
  • Do they have a refund and exchange policy?
  • Are they clear about the total cost of purchase e.g. handling, shipping, insurance etc.?

It can also be worth looking online to see what experiences other people have had with that particular retailer. More tips for safe online shopping are on the NetSafe website.

If the seller is based overseas then you don’t have much protection at all.

If you are unsure and want to know more about what your rights are with online shopping, visit, call or email your CAB.

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