7 Dec 2020

'Gutted' participant lodges complaint after fake money event

5:15 pm on 7 December 2020

A participant at a PR event promising a $100,000 drop from the sky says he was left gutted and has lodged a complaint with the Commerce Commission and is going to the police.

A real $5 note (top) and a fake $5 note given out at the Safety Warehouse promotion.

A real $5 note (top) and a fake $5 note given out at the Safety Warehouse promotion. Photo: Supplied/ John Murphy

Crowds showed up at Auckland's Aotea Square on Saturday expecting to pick-up money and instead got discount vouchers resembling $5 notes.

The PR stunt by The Safety Warehouse on Saturday caused tempers to flare as those gathering up the vouchers discovered these weren't money.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for an apology from the event organisers.

"I cannot fathom how at any point someone would think that was a good idea. Clearly it was not and it's caused harm ... hurt, they should apologise," she told reporters at her weekly post-Cabinet briefing this afternoon.

Levin resident John Murphy said he spent $200 on travel and accommodation and 10 hours on a bus to get to the money drop.

He told Morning Report the Safety Warehouse event turned into a riot.

"People were pushing, shoving and punching, basically it turned into some sort of riot. I agree with the anger but I don't agree with the violence," he said.

He has started a petition demanding the company to reimburse participants with real cash. Nearly 600 people have signed it so far.

Murphy thought the event took advantage of vulnerable New Zealanders and said he was left gutted after it.

The Levin man said he arrived in Auckland expecting to have the opportunity to win actual money.

"I booked bus tickets and accommodation that cost me $200 and I was looking forward to the drop, similar to how a kid may feel on Christmas Day."

He walked away with $180 discount vouchers that look like $5 notes. He said the notes had looked real when thrown into the crowd.

"It wasn't until I got back to my place after they said the event is over... it soon become clear to me that they were fake notes."

Murphy now wants the company to give everyone cash to the stated worth of their discount vouchers.

"Everyone, as far I know, had genuine belief that we were in with a chance to win a share of $100,000... They should give me $180."

He has lodged a complaint with the Commerce Commission and says he will go to the police because the $5 notes were counterfeit.

Safety Warehouse managing director Andrew Thorn said in a statement the company stood by their marketing and the vouchers issued.

The online store, which sells protective wear, had advertised that $100,000 in cash would be given away in a "live cash giveaway", with the promise that "ACTUAL MONEY will be flying from the sky".

Lawyer Susie Kilty, an expert in fair trading laws, said offering gifts and prizes that you do not provide is a breach of the law.

Kilty said a company could not use a fine print to correct the overall impression of an advertisement.

She urged the Commerce Commission to investigate.

A Commerce Commission spokesperson said they were still reviewing four complaints they had received, and had not concluded whether the company had breached the Fair Trading Act.

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said whether there were Fair Trading Act breaches depended on the event's advertising.

"Depending on how off the mark that original advertising was, there could be a potential to take claims under the Fair Trading Act."