The Fair Trading Act (Act) exists to promote fair competition and in this way it contributes to the economic wellbeing of all New Zealanders. It prohibits certain conduct in trade, provides for the disclosure of consumer information relating to the supply of goods and services and promotes product safety.
The Commerce Commission's goal is that consumers can be confident of the accuracy of information they receive when making choices. Although the Act does not oblige businesses to provide information to consumers in all circumstances, businesses are obliged to ensure the information they do provide is accurate, and important information is not withheld. This enables consumers to make informed choices about goods and services.
The Commission is responsible for enforcing the Act, but anyone – consumers and businesses alike – can rely on and take their own legal action under the Act. The Commission is also empowered to take enforcement action and will do so when allegations are sufficiently serious to meet its enforcement criteria.
The Act's primary focus is on anyone in trade – from a bank, hotel or department store through to the local plumber or corner dairy. The Act also applies to online sales. It applies to all aspects of the promotion and sale of goods and services – from advertising and pricing to sales techniques and financing. Businesses cannot contract out of their obligations under the Act.
The Act also applies to certain activities whether or not the parties are 'in trade' – such as employment advertising, pyramid selling, and the supply of products covered by product safety and consumer information standards.