In the final days of Parliament for 2013 the Government passed the long-awaited Consumer Law Reform Bill. The Bill was passed in the form of five amendment Bills and one new Bill.

Significant amendments have been made to six key consumer law statutes (including the Fair Trading Act 1986 (FTA) and the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 (CGA)) and another four statutes have been repealed and incorporated into an amended and extended FTA and new Auctioneers Act.

The objective of the reforms was to revise and update New Zealand's consumer law so that it:

  • is principles-based;
  • enables consumers to transact with confidence;
  • protects suppliers and consumers from inappropriate market conduct;
  • is easily accessible to those who are affected by it; and
  • achieves harmonisation with the Australian Consumer Law, as appropriate, in accordance with the Government's agenda of a single economic market with Australia.

The result has been the most wide-ranging consumer law reform that New Zealand has seen for several decades.

The reforms impact on both consumer and business-to-business contracts and, therefore, will be applicable, at least in part, to all businesses in New Zealand.

There are transitional periods built into the legislation to allow time to implement various changes including those relating to:

  • unfair contract terms in standard form consumer contracts;
  • 'unsubstantiated representations' in trade;
  • the changes for layby sales, uninvited direct sales and extended warranty agreements;
  • auctions and auctioneers;
  • the Carriage of Goods Act; and
  • the CGA's application to gas and electricity.

For details on the reforms see our earlier client update: Consumer Law Reform Bill passes into law (at last)

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has also provided information on the reforms on its website here.