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The Commerce Commission ('Commission') has released a snapshot of the 8,964 consumer complaints it received from July 2018 to June 2019.

Consumer complaints to the Commerce Commission increased more than 20% compared to the 2017/2018 year. The increase in complaints relates mostly to matters covered by the Fair Trading Act 1986 (‘FTA’). The snapshot can be viewed here.

The Commission chose to release these numbers to make complaint information more accessible and meaningful to consumers, and to show that every complaint received remains important to the Commission (although not every one is investigated).

Summary of the consumer complaints

The highest number of complaints were about telecommunications retail service providers under the FTA. Complaint themes included consumers being charged fees they were not told about, inaccurate bills, or being signed up for contracts they did not agree to.

The next highest number of complaints concerned online ticket selling, an increase of 63% compared to last year. Complaints included that headline prices and final prices did not match, and that consumers felt pressured by countdown clocks during the purchase process that stated “limited seats”.

In third place were complaints regarding domestic appliance retailers. Scenarios where consumers were told the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 (‘CGA’) did not apply when returning a faulty product, or that they would have to pay for a repair because the manufacturer’s warranty had expired, were the basis of some complaints.

Finally, there was a nearly 40% increase in complaints about irresponsible lending. Complainants alleged that lenders did not check if repayment was affordable, and that they felt unfairly pursued or harassed by debt collectors to pay their debts.

What does this mean for your business?

This publication, and in particular the increase in consumer complaints, is a reminder to businesses to review your sales terms, ensure your staff are trained in consumer and other laws and appropriately consider all of your representations, as consumers are increasingly aware of their rights under relevant consumer legislation and are likely to make complaints.

Have a read of some of our previous articles:

Making sure claims are substantiated and don't mislead - if you can't back it up, don't say it

Commerce Commission targets misleading conduct - hefty fines likely

Consumers' right to know when looking at paid advertising

Commerce Commission releases unfair contract terms guidelines



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