Do you trust your salesperson?

The AM Show 23/05/2019

Kiwis don't trust salespeople not to cheat or mislead them as much as they used to, new research has found.

We're also less likely to believe there are adequate consumer protections in place.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has just released the results of its latest New Zealand Consumer Survey, which surveyed nearly 2600 Kiwi adults. It found a growing distrust in salespeople and the systems designed to protect buyers.

"If a product or service a consumer has purchased goes wrong after they've bought it, there are consumer protection laws in place that enable consumers to go and do something about that," MBIE consumer protection manager Mark Hollingsworth told The AM Show on Thursday.

But compared to 2016, we're less likely to believe that. Only 52 percent of us believe the claims made by salespeople are accurate 'always' or 'most of the time' - down from 56 percent in 2016.

And only 58 percent of us believe the law protects consumers adequately when things go wrong - down from 66 percent in 2016.

"We found in our survey for example telecommunications services, major retail purchases, motor vehicle purchases,' according to Hollingsworth are areas that cause confusino for consumers.

Consumers can be a little bit confused about - what to do and where to go if things do go wrong.

The survey found people who know a lot about their rights under legislation such as the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), the Fair Trading Act (FTA) and the Consumer Finance Act (CFA) are more likely to believe there are adequate protections in place.

"Under the Consumer Guarantees Act - in very general terms - if a product or service you've purchased breaks down too easily or is not of acceptable quality," then you have options says Hollingsworth.

The business you bought that from has got an obligation to put that right, to replace, repair or refund you.

The poor, young, and people with low levels of education or whose first language isn't English are less likely to know what to do when a product or service isn't up to scratch. While most Kiwis know the basics of the CGA and FTA, few understand how the CFA works.

Only just over a third of cases where a consumer has a problem under the CGA, FTA or CFA are resolved, the survey found.

Hollingsworth said there are plenty of resources out there to help, including MBIE's own consumer protection site, non-profit group Consumer and the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Sectors with significant problems include

  • utilities ("much more likely than average to involve poor customer service, cost, and incorrect or misleading information... unsatisfactory resolutions are also higher than average")
  • home internet/phone services ("relatively common...  timeconsuming to resolve")
  • insurance ("very time-consuming to resolve" with most taking more than five hours), 
  • and building and repairs ("much more common...  twice as likely to affect those who identify with 'other' ethnic groups").

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherley