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COVID-19: Commission's guidance for consumers and businesses

15 April 2020

The Commerce Commission has issued guidance for consumers and businesses about their rights and obligations in relation to disruptions to travel, trading and events as a result of COVID-19.

“In the last couple of weeks, we have had more than 100 complaints relating to cancellations and refunds. This is a complicated legal area and we wanted to provide guidance for both consumers and businesses that would help to reduce the confusion,” says Commission Chair, Anna Rawlings.

In the current circumstances, the Commerce Commission encourages businesses and consumers to treat each other fairly, and to be patient and respectful while they work through any challenges. 

The commission says the main factor which will determine a consumer’s rights or a business’ obligations will be the terms and conditions that were agreed to at the time of the booking or transaction. Some contracts will provide rights to a refund; others may state that a credit will be provided, allowing consumers to rebook at a later date. 

“If you had a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time you purchased the ticket or made the booking, then you should receive a refund,” Ms Rawlings says.

She says businesses must not mislead consumers into thinking they are not entitled to a refund if they are entitled to one and they cannot lawfully develop a policy that contradicts a consumer’s contractual entitlement. “If they do either of these things, then they risk breaching the Fair Trading Act,” she says.

The commission’s guidance covers general legal principles and has a series of frequently asked questions in areas such as travel, events, weddings, subscriptions and memberships. However, circumstances can vary from contract to contract and the commission encourages businesses and consumers to discuss the situation with one another to work out a solution that best fits the circumstances of their relationship.

The commission also has a range of other guidance available on the COVID-19 page on its website including advice on responsible lending for lenders and borrowers. Information for regulated businesses and tips on how to get the best out of your broadband are also available.

Last updated on the 15th April 2020