The Commerce Commission's annual consumer issues report shows telecommunications firms Vodafone NZ and Spark NZ still attract the most ire from their customers, although the rise of online shopping has seen a growing number of complaints.
The regulator plans to put greater emphasis on retail telco providers in the current year, as the most complained of sector attracted 603 complaints in the 2016/17 year out of 7270 total complaints. Of that, Vodafone was the most complained about, with186 complaints, followed closely by rival Spark at 180, about twice Two Degrees Mobile's 88. The commission said about a quarter of those complaints were over incorrect billing and a fifth related to various fees charged, such as late payments, credit card use, or paper invoices.
"Telecommunications continue to be the most complained about industry with the number of complaints increasing by nearly a third on last year," commissioner Anna Rawlings said in a statement. "This trend reinforces our decision to make retail telecommunications a priority focus area for the coming year across both our consumer and regulation work."
The consumer affairs and competition watchdog's annual consumer issues report identifies current and emerging risks it sees as having the potential to affect consumers and markets.
The report identified the continued growth in online spending attracting a similar increase in complaints, where consumers struggle to work out whether a vendor mispresented the price or goods or services sold compared to the experience in a physical outlet.
"It is evident from some complaints that consumers have subsequently had doubts whether they purchased from a legitimate trader, particularly if the trader is based abroad and the consumer has been unable to make contact with the trader to resolve concerns about product delivery or quality," the report said.
Ms Rawlings said: "Consumers need to research the traders they intend to buy from and pay attention to additional costs such as booking fees, the currency they are paying in, and whether the fine print discloses they have been signed up to a monthly subscription."
Appliance store retailers were the second most complained about industry, with 403 complaints. Common themes to trigger complaints were misleading pricing practices, especially during advertised sales, and misrepresentations over the Consumer Guarantees Act when returning a faulty product. Warehouse Group-owned Noel Leeming topped the complaint board with 82, followed by rival Harvey Norman at 45.
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