Watchdog warns retailers to play fair

CHING CHING: Online shopping on foreign websites is an increasingly popular pastime.
CHING CHING: Online shopping on foreign websites is an increasingly popular pastime.

Online shoppers waiting on overdue presents for this Christmas have taken their gripes to the Commerce Commission – which is warning online retailers to trade fair.

The warnings come as Trade Me reveals Kiwis are in for an iPad, iPhone and iPod-filled Christmas this year, with the Apple gadgets the most searched items on the site in the first week of December.

Commission competition manager Greg Allan said online retailers failing to deliver goods by the promised date was a common grumble over the holiday period and it had already received its first complaints.

"We also commonly hear from people buying Christmas presents online and then being told the goods are not available just before Christmas.

"Retailers, particularly those trading online, must be very careful about promising to deliver goods by a certain date at one of the busiest delivery times of the year," Allan said.

Online retailers needed to be aware of the Fair Trading Act, which prohibits false and misleading information being provided to consumers.

"New Zealanders are great watchdogs for misleading or deceptive claims made by businesses. The commission receives over 10,000 complaints a year and around 70 per cent are possible breaches of the Fair Trading Act, so all retailers should make sure they understand their obligations and deliver on them."

Allan said retailers needed to be careful when comparing a price with a previous price, as raising prices and then quickly lowering them to give a perception of larger savings was misleading. A product should have been available at a price for a reasonable time before the price reduction, he said.

He also cautioned retailers against labelling a product as "New Zealand-made" without true justification.

Trade Me spokesman Paul Ford said Apple products were one of the hottest sellers on the site, with iPods, iPhones and iPads together the most searched items last week.

"Apple has done a great job appealing to a wide cross-section of people, from tweenie kids wanting iPod Touches through to hardcore tech geeks wanting the flashest iPhone money can buy."

Nationally, Lego was the second most-searched term on the site, up from eighth a year ago.

That was followed by trampolines, BBQs, Karen Walker and Country Road clothing together in fifth place, and dogs or puppies.

Outdoorsy searches – for kayaks, scooters and tents – rounded out the top ten.

New to the top ten list this year were Country Road and outdoor furniture – placed tenth, while Trelise Cooper and jet boats were missing after featuring last year.

Ford said Trade Me usually saw a boom in activity in December, with the weekend just gone and this coming weekend expected to provide the high-tide mark.

More than 550,000 domestic unique browsers visited Trade Me every day last week, according to Nielsen Market Intelligence. Visits from mobile devices made up 32 per cent of all visits to the site last month, up from 13 per cent a year ago.

Ford said it expected mobile visits this month and next to increase as people used their smartphones to compare prices while Christmas shopping, "and as another swathe of iPads and iPhones are unwrapped on Christmas Day".