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Too many companies flouting consumer laws

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A marked rise in Fair Trading Act complaints shows consumer rights are being ignored by too many retailers, Consumer NZ says.

The Commerce Commission’s annual Consumer Issues report shows a 24 percent rise in Fair Trading Act complaints since 2015. Complaints about potential breaches of the act jumped from 5489 in 2014/15 to 6798 this year. 

Pricing practices, and claims about goods and services were the most common issues raised in complaints. Online sales comprised 42 percent of all complaints. 

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said it was disappointing, but not surprising, to see Spark and Vodafone again topping the list of the most complained about traders. 

Vodafone attracted 186 complaints this year and Spark 180. Foodstuffs, owner of the New World and Pak’nSave supermarket brands, followed them with 98 complaints. 

Rounding out the top 10 were 2degrees (88), Noel Leeming (82), Air New Zealand (77), Vocus Communications (68), Progressive Enterprises (66), Wilson Parking (62) and Viagogo (57).

Ms Chetwin said companies named in the commission’s report were also a common cause of complaints to Consumer NZ’s advisory service, which receives about 4000 inquiries a year.

“The telco industry and appliance retailers regularly feature in complaints to us. Despite the fact the Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act have been in place for over 20 years, some traders are still deliberately hazy about their responsibilities,” she said.

The commission’s report also showed 242 complaints were received about potential breaches of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act. 

A significant proportion of complaints (22 percent) related to lenders failing to comply with their responsible lending obligations. Ms Chetwin said 54 complaints concerned the lender failing to make reasonable inquiries about a borrower’s needs or their ability to repay the loan.

“Responsible lending rules were meant to ensure banks and others lenders didn’t extend credit to consumers who couldn’t afford to repay the money. It’s a major concern if lenders aren’t playing by the rules,” she said. 


Consumer Broadband Compare lets you find the best deal

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Want to know if you’re on the cheapest broadband plan? Then go to Consumer NZ’s new website consumer.broadbandcompare.co.nz.

The website features over 1800 plans, including fibre and rural broadband, from more than 60 providers. Using it is as easy as entering your address. 

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says telecommunications is an industry where confusion reigns and that’s the way the telcos like it. Consumer Broadband Compare aims to strip away the hype and jargon. It’s a simple-to-use tool that makes comparing broadband plans easy. 

The website is a collaboration between Consumer NZ and Broadband Compare, a New Zealand-owned business. 

Giving people the ability to check they’re getting the best deal is nothing new for Consumer NZ. The consumer watchdog has run its energy price comparison site Powerswitch since 1999. Last month, nearly 4000 people used the site to initiate a switch to a new provider. 

Gavin Male, Broadband Compare managing director says: “Consumer NZ has been at the forefront of helping New Zealanders find the best power provider for their needs with Powerswitch and it made perfect sense to partner with them to help Kiwis get the best value from their broadband plan too.”

Mr Male says there can be big savings to be made by switching telco. “We are regularly seeing users save over $300 a year versus their current broadband plan. With the rollout of UFB and the Rural Broadband Initiative, we are seeing a huge increase in competition and there are some big savings to be made.” 

Butter prices reach a record high of $5.39 a block

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Butter prices rose 11 percent in August 2017, to a record high of $5.39 a block, Stats NZ said today. The previous record was $5.05 in June 2017.

The average price of $5.39 for a cheapest available 500g block was up 51 cents on July and up $2.07 (62 percent) on August 2016. The annual butter price increase is the largest in percentage terms since 2010.

“We have seen butter prices rising lately due to New Zealand’s export driven market,” consumers price index manager Matthew Haigh said. “Butter prices have experienced all-time highs in the global market, and this also drives the price here at home.”



Overall food prices rose 0.6 percent in August 2017

Vegetable prices rose 5.4 percent in August, and were the main contributor to the 0.6 percent rise in food prices. After seasonal adjustment, however, vegetable prices fell 1.1 percent.

Tomato prices are up to $10.42 a kg, compared with $9.50 in July 2017, and $10.92 in August 2016. Tomato prices are seasonally high in August.

In contrast to vegetable prices, fruit prices fell 0.5 percent (up 0.1 percent after seasonal adjustment). This was mainly due to lower prices for avocados (down 19 percent). Avocado prices usually fall as we approach spring, and they are still coming down from a near record high in June. A 200g avocado cost $2.59 in August, compared with $3.20 in July and $4.52 in June. However, this is still more than the average $1.72 in August 2016.

Prices for non-alcoholic beverages fell 1.2 percent, led by lower prices for supermarket-bought coffee (such as instant and ground beans), down 7.1 percent. This was mostly due to items going on special.

Annual food prices increase 2.3 percent

Food prices increased 2.3 percent in the year to August 2017. This followed a 3.0 percent increase in the year to July 2017. The smaller increase, as compared with the year to July, is due to vegetable prices coming down from recent extremely high levels.

Vegetable prices increased 8.7 percent in the latest year, led by kumara and potatoes. The price for a kilo of kumara was $8.00 in August 2017, up from $3.23 in August 2016.

“The exceptionally wet weather over the past year has had an impact on growing tuber vegetables such as potatoes and kumara,” Mr Haigh said. “The crop losses and extra manual work required for harvesting has translated into higher prices on supermarket shelves.”

Variable speeds to be extended to allow maximum of 100km/hr near Waterview Tunnel

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The NZ Transport Agency says variable speed limits will be extended on sections of State Highways 16 and 20 around the Waterview Tunnel to allow maximum speeds of 100km/hr.

 

“We want to ensure that people’s journeys on the motorway are as safe and easy as we can make them. Variable speeds are increasingly being used to match speed limits with the conditions and provide the right balance between safety and keeping traffic flowing smoothly,” says Brett Gliddon, the Transport Agency’s System Design Manager.

 

“Since opening the Waterview Tunnel we’ve been monitoring the operational and safety performance on the state highways around the tunnel, as well as taking on board customer and stakeholder feedback.”

 

“The motorway system around the tunnel and through the central motorway junction is complex with higher traffic volumes and a significant amount of lane changing and the speed limits need to reflect these conditions while also ensuring we keep motorists safe.”

 

Speed limits inside the tunnel will remain at 80km/h to manage the higher risks associated with an enclosed tunnel environment.

 

Additional physical infrastructure needs to be installed on the motorway system, as well as a legal process completed before the variable speed limits can be put in place. That process is now underway.


Labour confirms Korean trade deal at risk

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Labour must come clean about its plans to renegotiate the Korean free trade agreement which is worth billions to New Zealand’s economy and supports thousands of jobs, National’s Trade spokesperson Todd McClay says.

 

“Jacinda Ardern has said this morning she wants to renegotiate New Zealand’s trade agreement with South Korea – a trading relationship which is already worth more than $4 billion a year to our economy,” Mr McClay says.

 

“This is another example of ill-thought out and vague Labour policy made up on the hoof. It’s simply not good enough for Jacinda Ardern to put the economic fortunes of New Zealand at risk along with thousands of jobs and businesses.

 

“Labour even seems to think it could renegotiate this deal by Christmas when it took five years to negotiate in the first place.

 

“That’s just not credible. Where is the detail on how they would do it? And what concessions would they be prepared to give away in return?

 

“New Zealand is a small country dependent on trade with exports supporting 620,000 jobs and contributing more than $70 billion to our economy every year.

 

“Labour already wants to tax New Zealanders out of business. Now want to renegotiate them out of business too.

 

“The Korean FTA provides greater access for New Zealand forestry, dairy, beef, lamb and kiwifruit, along with opportunities for education, science and technology – it’s our sixth-largest export destination.

 

“How can our exporters plan to grow or invest or hire more staff when there is no certainty?

 

“Voters have a right to know what they are voting for. Labour must front up with the detail,” Mr McClay says.

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