Whether you sell online or in person, you must tell customers important information about your products or services — and how you conduct your business.
You might need to think about:
A good way to give customers important information is to put it on your website or social media page, or in posters on the walls of your store. Whatever method you choose, try to make the information clear and accurate.
|Type of information||Who should include this||Examples of details to include|
|Contact details||All business and self-employed sellers||Phone, fax, email and street address - not just a PO box number|
|Any extra costs||All business and self-employed sellers||
|Returns policy||All business and self-employed sellers||When customers can ask for returns, exchanges or refunds - remember you must meet Consumer Guarantees Act requirements|
|How to complain||All business and self-employed sellers||
|Online shopping details||If customers buy via your website||
Shopping online (external link) - Consumer Protection
A secure checkout on your website is best. Customers will look for the padlock symbol and https:// in your URL — the ‘s’ stands for secure.
Collecting and using information about people — even a phone number and invoicing address — is an everyday part of doing business. You must:
If you break any of these rules — even accidentally — a customer may make a complaint under the Privacy Act.
Information privacy principles (external link) — Privacy Commissioner
Create a plain English privacy statement with the online tool Priv-o-matic.
Priv-o-matic (external link) — Privacy Commissioner tool
Contracts and sales or service agreements must be fair to both sides — the buyer and the seller. Chances are your business will be both selling to customers and buying from suppliers.
Plain language is a must.
The terms must also respect the rights and responsibilities of the buyer and the seller. Both must be able to decide:
Business guide to unfair contract terms (external link) — Commerce Commission
Not all the details in this table are needed for all sales agreements or contracts. But it’s a good idea to include:
You don’t need to put in writing any conditions that are legal requirements, eg goods will be of acceptable quality (Consumer Guarantees Act), or customers will be treated equally (Human Rights Act).
Terms and conditions of contracts (external link) — Consumer Protection
|What to include||This means|
|Brief description||Products: This might include make, model and serial number
Services: What will be done, where and any materials used, eg landscaping the front garden, using limestone pavers and decorative grasses
|Delivery details for products||
|Timeframes for services||
|Terms and conditions||
|Terms and conditions when dealing with other businesses||
|Customer requests||Useful to include if they want you to use or do something you don’t recommend, eg a cheaper type of paint|
Leon, a painter and decorator, provides a quote to repaint Sal’s front door. He recommends sanding, then an undercoat and four coats of high-performance paint. But Sal decides she wants just a light sanding and one coat on top of the existing paintwork.
Leon warns her it won’t weather well, but she insists it’ll stand up to the wind and rain. Six months later, she complains of paint bubbling. She blames poor workmanship and asks for a refund.
Leon checks back over his paperwork. He finds an email he sent Sal outlining his concerns about her preferred method.
Because she went against his advice — and he’d clearly set out the risks of this option — Leon does not have to provide any remedy.
He turns down Sal’s refund request. His email, and their discussion about methods, limits his liability. The job was done with skill and care, but to lower specifications at her request.
Sal is not pleased. But once reminded of Leon’s recommendation, she accepts she’s not entitled to a refund. She asks him to quote again to fix the paintwork and make her door weatherproof.
Businesses that sell consumer products or services to other businesses can contract out of the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) and the Contract and Commercial Law Act, which has replaced the Sale of Goods Act. It might be your business contracting out, or it might be one or more of your suppliers.
Contracting out means that if something goes wrong, eg a domestic oven bought by a baker breaks down, the seller does NOT have to pay for repairs or give a refund or replacement — except to the extent stated in the contract.
Contracting out must be put in writing, eg in a sales agreement or contract. If not, the law applies. It doesn’t matter if the document is signed or not. If the sale goes ahead, it’s taken to mean the buyer agrees to the terms.
Check for phrases like these, which mean your supplier has contracted out:
Faulty goods and services bought by businesses (external link) — Consumer Protection
Spam can be unwanted emails, text messages, instant messages or faxes. Sending it is illegal. Follow these three steps to make sure what you send to customers isn’t spam:
So long as you meet these steps, these types of emails and other messages are fine to send:
Check out the resources and case studies on the Department of Internal Affairs’ website. These help New Zealand businesses comply with anti-spam rules.
Spam information for businesses (external link) — Department of Internal Affairs
Think carefully before offering these. Advice to customers from Consumer Protection and other consumer rights organisations is not to buy these. This is because consumer laws offer long-lasting protection against things going wrong — especially for expensive items, eg vehicles or high-end laptops.
An extended warranty also involves a lot of extra paperwork. Under the Fair Trading Act, you must give customers a written description of:
Selling extended warranties (external link) — Commerce Commission
But if you’re buying something for your business, the supplier may contract out of the Consumer Guarantees Act. If they do, it might be worth looking into an extended warranty in some cases, eg buying a vehicle for your business.
Warranties (external link) — Consumer Protection