12 Aug 2021

What really grinds your gears? Top five consumer complaints

From Nine To Noon, 2:10 pm on 12 August 2021

Gemma Rasmussen from Consumer NZ tells us the top five complaints that come their way from the New Zealand public - including one winter-specific suburban gripe.

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Photo: 123RF, RNZ

Supermarket prices

Unrecognizable young mother with her little baby boy at the supermarket, shopping.

Photo: 123RF

Everyday low prices, multi-buys, loyalty rewards... Walking into the New Zealand supermarket it seems as if you see specials everywhere, but we are still paying too much for groceries, Rasmussen says.

New Zealand's supermarket 'duopoly' is what's driving the high prices, she says, and if the two supermarkets were competing adequately between themselves we would see prices go down.

"The Commerce Commission findings have solidified our suspicions that we're paying simply too much."

While 74 percent of New Zealanders suspect supermarket "specials" aren't genuine (a Consumer NZ study found), the supermarkets know shoppers will still go for them, Rasmussen says.

"I think when you walk into the supermarket you have decision fatigue. And how can everyday New Zealanders be reasonably expected to cut through these greenwashing campaigns and marketing and advertising - you really have to think about it."

Dodgy ticket resellers

LONDON, UK - JANUARY 8TH 2018: The homepage of the official website for Viagogo - the online ticket marketplace for ticket resale, on 8th January 2018.

Photo: 123RF

Consumer NZ hears about this issue a lot, as often people don't realise they're purchasing their ticket from a ticket reseller, Rasmussen says.

International ticket-selling operations are tremendously savvy at SEO (search engine optimisation) - i.e. getting on top of the list of search results - and since Covid, they've been targeting New Zealanders.

"Because who can go to concerts, who can do these things? Not a lot of people around the world apart from us."

Things to look out for:

  • Is this the official ticket seller for the event?
  • Are they using pressure tactics, such as a clock counting down?
  • Are they asking you to pay in NZ dollars?

Related: Ticket resales are causing grief, here's what to look out for

Airfare refunds 

An Air NZ plane at Wellington International airport on February 20, 2020.

Photo: AFP

There was a huge surge in complaints about airline refunds during Covid, but they've dropped off now, Rasmussen says.

Consumer NZ still takes issue with Air New Zealand holding on to people's money rather than refunding them.

"We think Air New Zealand needs to extend its existing hardship policy… if people want a refund we think they should get a refund or [the airline should] at least extent that hardship provision because right now it's sitting at 30 June 2022.

"I think that's so fair if someone doesn't want to travel right now. Just give them a refund."

Appliances that aren't built to last

washing machine in a field

Photo: Carlos Lindner / Unsplash

Most often if an electrical product breaks down within its warranty period you simply go to the shop and they give you a new one, Rasmussen says.

The problem is the old one, which isn't even old, ends up in the landfill.

It's often cheaper for businesses to replace rather than repair, she says.

Consumer NZ is working to shift the public focus from performance and cost to whether a product will last and if it's repairable.

"We want to be able to inform people about that.

"Manufacturers should be responsible for things after they leave the shop floor."

Neighbours' chimney smoke and noisy heat pumps

Modern house roof with chimney smoke, air pollution and smog in winter, ecological problems

Photo: 123RF

We all have neighbourhood disputes to work out, and this is one that comes up frequently in wintertime, Rasmussen says.

"If you are having issues if the heat pump is really noisy talk to the neighbour first but worst-case you can take it to the Disputes Tribunal or your district council."

If it's a noisy heat pump issue, you could also "gently suggest" vibration absorbing mats that can absorb some of the sound from a heat pump.