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Consumer law regulates what your business can and cannot do, with the intent of protecting consumer rights. One area this applies to is the provision of unsolicited goods or services to consumers. Your business may want to send unsolicited products as samples to your customers or provide a trial of your service. The provision of unsolicited goods or services is not necessarily illegal in New Zealand, but you do need to be careful about how you provide them. Namely, customers do not have to pay for goods or services when they receive them unsolicited. This article will explain whether you can provide unsolicited goods or services to your customers and how to comply with the law when you do.

What Are Unsolicited Goods or Services?

This refers to the products you send your customers when they have not ordered or requested them, such as sending magazines in the mail. Unsolicited services refer to the same concept when you provide a service for a customer when they have not asked for it, such as installing new anti-virus software on their laptop they did not ask for. 

Some businesses provide unsolicited goods or services as a marketing tactic to show examples of what they can provide to draw in customers. For example, with the marketing newsletters you send to your customers through the mail, you may include samples of your new skincare products. Customers did not ask for these products, so they qualify as being unsolicited.

Note that providing reticulated gas or electricity does not qualify as unsolicited goods or services.

Troubles with Unsolicited Goods and Services

However, some businesses use these goods or services to attempt to make customers pay for products or services they did not ask for. For instance, a mechanic may be repairing a car and notice a fault that the customer did not ask them to fix. They repair the fault without informing the customer and demand that the customer pay them for that service.

This can also happen online, where a business uses personal information collected from a customer, such as collecting mailing addresses to create an account on their website. They then send customers their products unsolicited and demand that customers pay for those products if they have not returned them within a set time.

Can My Business Provide Unsolicited Goods or Services?

The law strictly regulates this area to prevent predatory tactics such as those above. The act of providing unsolicited goods and services itself is not necessarily illegal. However, demanding payment for unsolicited products is. If you try to ask your customers to pay for the goods you send or the services you perform without request, then you are misleading their customers about their consumer rights when receiving these things. When you do so, you can face hefty fines under the Fair Trading Act, up to:

  • $200,000 for an individual; and
  • $600,000 for a company.

If you send an invoice with the price of the goods or services you provided, this is also illegal unless you clearly state that the customer is under no obligation to pay. Therefore, you need to clearly tell your customers that they do not have to pay for them unless they deliberately damage or lose the goods. If loss or damage occurs outside of the customers’ control, they do not have to pay.

What You Need to Tell Customers

When your business provides unsolicited goods or services to customers unsolicited, you need to tell them about their rights and obligations in the situation. This is because your business is in trade, which means you need to observe consumer law when you operate.

Whenever you send or provide unsolicited goods or services, you need to tell your customers that:

  • they do not have to pay (unless they deliberately damage or lose the goods);
  • if they do not want the goods, they must make them available for collection whenever reasonable within ten working days of receiving them; and
  • if your business has not collected the goods within ten working days, the customer can keep the goods without payment.

If you fail to tell your customers this, then they can keep the goods free of payment. Ensure that you provide an information sheet that clearly tells your customers their rights and what they need to do. Also, keep track of what goods you have sent, and provide a simple collection method for your customers, such as leaving the goods in their mailbox.

Key Takeaways

In New Zealand, you can provide unsolicited goods or services to your customers. However, you cannot demand payment for those goods or services. If you send unsolicited goods to customers, you need to inform them of their rights, including the collection process. If you would like more information or help with legally providing unsolicited goods or services, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are unsolicited goods or services?

These are goods or services that your business has provided a customer without their request or order. This does not include reticulated gas or electricity.

Can I provide unsolicited goods and service to my customers?

The provision of unsolicited goods or services is not illegal, but demanding payment for it is. If you attempt to do so, you can face fines under the Fair Trading Act. Therefore, free product samples are acceptable, but demanding payment for an unrequested car repair is not.

Does a customer have to send back any unsolicited goods?

A customer does not have to send back any unsolicited goods you send them. However, within ten days of receiving them, they must make them available for you to pick them up.

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