Consumer self-regulation

July 16th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Customers will be the winners if companies agree to sign up to NZ’s tough fair trading code of conduct.

To earn its “Consumer Trusted” accreditation a business must sign up to a strict code of conduct and a set of eight principles promoting fair trading. They will also pay a fee of up to $25,000 a year.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said the programme aimed to deliver high standards of customer service and consumer confidence. …

“What we’ve developed through Consumer Trusted is a visible way of rewarding businesses with genuinely top-class customer service.”

“Our goal is to inspire all businesses to go beyond the minimum standards of consumer law,” Chetwin said.

The programme’s consumer principles include: excellent customer service, fair returns and refunds policies, clear pricing and accurate advertising.

Businesses must also sign up to a code of conduct which includes a range of fair trading clauses.

For example, if a product worth more than $100 goes on sale within a week of purchase the buyer is entitled to a refund of the difference.

Accredited businesses must also belong to an approved dispute-resolution scheme, or allow Consumer NZ to provide the service.

Large companies would pay $25,000 a year to be part of the programme, while the fee for smaller businesses would be in the “low thousands” of dollars per year, she said. Revenue from the programme would go back into research, testing and consumer dispute resolution service.

I like this initiative. It is a voluntary self-regulation initiative. A business will only join up if it thinks the fee and commitments it makes are worth the gain in reputation and trust. A good market initiative.

Chetwin said she hopes to get 25 businesses on board by the end of the year. Four have already been accredited, including telecommunications company 2degrees, online electricity retailer Powershop, internet service provider Inspire Net and shoe retailer Shoe Clinic.

That’s cool – two of those companies are ones I use.

THE 8 PRINCIPLES

Provide excellent customer service

Fair, clear returns and refunds policies

Informative and up-to-date website

All complaints and disputes dealt with fairly

Contracts must be fair and easily understood

Clear pricing

Customer details are not exploited

Advertising is accurate

They are good principles.

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13 Responses to “Consumer self-regulation”

  1. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I just wonder whether having Consumer endorsing products and services jeopardises their independence.

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  2. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    25 stacks seems like a rip.

    is this a money making scheme?

    we do need more of this though and less govt regulation.

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  3. Manolo (13,783 comments) says:

    $25,000 per year? The name P.T. Barnum comes to mind.

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  4. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    >>fair returns and refunds policies

    Fair for who? so you buy something, change your mind and to be ‘fair’ the company has to take it back, and carry the loss on it, either being unable to sell it at all or having to discount it?

    sure for some items it ‘might’ be easy to resell at full price but thats up to the company and depends on their products.

    this overarching crap bugs me, especially the abuse of the word ‘fair’. i can get clear, easy to read etc, they are subjective but with at least some objectivity to it, but ‘fair’? fair is one of the most subjective words out there.

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  5. Nigel Kearney (1,014 comments) says:

    I don’t mind the $25k. Consumer has a pretty strong reputation so an endorsement from them could easily enable that amount to be recouped. More of an issue is whether Consumer would be willing to lose that money if they revoke someone’s accreditation. It might become like ISO where audits are always passed because the accrediting organization doesn’t want to kill the golden goose, so they just replace failures with ‘observations’.

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  6. Lance (2,655 comments) says:

    Oh goody, more endless expenses for producers/ manufacturers.

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  7. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    How will Consumer respond to complaints about companies it has endorsed through this scheme?

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  8. Tarquin North (298 comments) says:

    We already operate like that – if we didn’t we wouldn’t be here. Normally I have the greatest respect for Consumer NZ, but this sounds like the kind of wishy washy drivell the Greens would come up with. The cost has a green ring to it as well. Why not just publish the names of the shysters as they pop up? Sunshine is a very good disinfectant. You could start with photocopier companies.

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  9. MT_Tinman (3,190 comments) says:

    I doubt it will make a shred of difference to most (if not all) purchasing decisions although I admit noting a business was foolish enough to pay for this type of hype would affect my view of that business – adversely.

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  10. holysheet (395 comments) says:

    This is bullshit. Just another rip off. If you are in business nowadays you should already be following that list of principles. You don’t need to pay 25k to be audited. You clients will soon let you know if you are or not by their level of repeat business.

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  11. Akaroa (557 comments) says:

    Ah! The good ol’ Consumer organisation, eh?

    An organisation well past its effective – emphasis on the ‘effective’ – use-by date, IMHO.

    More years ago than I care to think, when I was still living in UK and a regular reader of the UK’s ‘Consumer” magazine which was then in its infancy, the Consumer Orgs had an effective and, IMHO, worthwhile function. (In those days at least, can’t speak for now)

    So when I came to NZ in ’75 I started taking the NZ version of the same-named publication. But i soon found it to be but a pale reflection, in content and punching-power, of its UK big brother. (Never mind, I thought. We live in a small – and, in the wider scheme of things – somewhat insignificant – country in global consumer terms, so NZ’s take on Consumerism is bound to reflect that.)

    But over time – and maybe because my own perception of consumer rip-offs and dodgy deals became sharper and more keenly honed – the ol’ NZ Consumer just got to be more and more irrelevant in terms of giving any worthwhile insight into Consumer matters.

    So we parted company. And I haven’t missed it – or, as far as I can tell, been ripped-off, blind-sided or otherwise done over by any manufacturer of consumer goods since.

    Is the ol’ “Consumer” still published can anyone say?

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  12. Richard Hurst (859 comments) says:

    This appears to be a blackmail scheme- pay $25K a year or we will say your products are shit, your service is shit etc. Since when is blackmail a “”good market initiative.”?

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  13. boredboy (250 comments) says:

    sounds like a bit of a scam to me. most of this stuff is already catered for in the statute books.

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