Consumers know their rights, but confidence in protection regime falls

Published: 19 May 2023

New Zealand’s only national survey of consumer data shows consumers know laws exist to protect their basic consumer rights, but confidence in the broader consumer protection regime has fallen.

The survey was first commissioned in 2016 by Consumer Protection, part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and is carried out every 2 years. It aims to understand consumers’ awareness and knowledge of consumer laws and assess their trust and confidence in the consumer regulatory system. The insights enable agencies and organisations within the consumer sector to inform their individual priorities, research and evaluation programmes.

The survey report for 2022 shows that while almost all consumers (95%), are aware that New Zealand laws exist to protect their consumer rights. Less than half (45%), understand how and when these laws apply. 

This is consistent with previous surveys where consumers may only need information when they encounter a problem. Consumers’ confidence in the enforcement of consumer laws is lower after improving in 2020.

Simon Gallagher, National Manager Consumer Protection, says more consumers are actively seeking more information, such as online reviews, before buying products. 

“More than half of the consumers surveyed reported experiencing a problem with a purchase they have made in the last 2 years,” Mr Gallagher says. “This may explain the caution consumers are indicating before purchasing products.”

E-commerce continues to grow over time meaning online has now overtaken in-person purchases as the key source for any problem purchases. 

“Consumers remain less certain of their rights when shopping online than they do in general,” says Mr Gallagher. 

“Information on consumer rights can vary depending on whether consumers are buying from a trader in New Zealand, overseas or a private seller. We always encourage consumers to check the terms and conditions before purchasing, including returns and warranty information.”

COVID-19 created or exacerbated problem-purchases for around 1 in 4 consumers who experienced an issue, particularly with travel or holiday services. Mr Gallagher advises, “consumers have different options on how to resolve issues and they need to know how to make use of them.”

"Consumers have the right to understand these laws and proactively advocate for their rights when making purchases or resolving conflicts if they experience issues,” Mr Gallagher says. “This year we will running a Consumer Guarantees Act awareness and harm prevention campaign to increase the level of consumer understanding of their rights. We will continue to work with our partners in the regulatory system and promote our tools, resources and information to help consumers understand and exercise their legal rights.

Consumers can find out more about their rights, transacting confidently, and how to resolve issues through the link below:

Consumer Protection website(external link) — Consumer Protection

The full New Zealand Consumer Survey 2022 findings and supporting infographic can be found on:

New Zealand Consumer Surveys

About the Survey:

This survey is the fourth in a series, repeated on a biennial basis in 2018, 2020 and 2022 to identify emerging trends and monitor any changes over time. In total, 2,018 consumers aged 18 years or older completed the survey with a response rate of 18%. Respondents had the option of responding online or by post, with the majority completing the survey online. Responses were weighted to ensure the sample is representative of the New Zealand population. The survey was conducted between 29 August 2022 and 14 November 2022.

MBIE media contact


Last updated: 19 May 2023