When sellers approach you uninvited
Unsolicited goods and services
Fair Trading Act 1986, ss 21A-21D
If someone provides you with goods or services that you didn’t order or ask for, they’ll want you to pay for them, but it’s up to you whether or not you do. If you were sent unsolicited goods, you have to allow the sender to collect them within 10 working days. If they don’t collect them in that time, the goods are yours.
What are “unsolicited” goods and services?
Fair Trading Act 1986, ss 21A(7), 21B(2)
Unsolicited goods are goods you receive when you haven’t ordered or asked for them and no-one has ordered or asked for them on your behalf – for example, when you’re sent books in the mail.
Unsolicited services are services that someone provides to you when you haven’t asked for them and no-one has asked for them on your behalf – for example if someone mows your lawn or weeds your garden without you asking them to.
Unsolicited goods and services don’t include reticulated (piped) gas or electricity.
What are my rights and obligations if I receive unsolicited goods?
Fair Trading Act 1986, s 21A; Fair Trading Act 1986, s 21A
If you’re sent unsolicited goods, you don’t have to pay for them and you’re not responsible if they’re lost, destroyed or damaged (unless you threw them away or destroyed or damaged them deliberately).
If you want the goods, you can pay for them and keep them. If you don’t want them, you don’t have to send them back; if the seller wants the goods back, the seller should collect them. You must make the goods available for the sender to collect at any reasonable time during the 10 working days after you received the goods.
If the sender is a business (whether an individual trader or a company), they’re legally required to include information with the goods explaining your rights and obligations in relation to unsolicited goods. If they don’t do this, the Commerce Commission can issue them with an infringement notice requiring them to pay an infringement fee (a fine), as an alternative to bringing criminal charges.
If the sender doesn’t collect the goods within 10 working days even though you’ve made them available to be picked up, then the goods belong to you as if they were a gift, and you’re free to keep them or throw them away.
The same applies if the sender is a business and they didn’t include the required information about your rights and obligations when they sent you the goods. However, the goods won’t belong to you if you failed, without any reasonable excuse, to let the sender collect the goods within the 10 working days, or if you knew or should reasonably have known that the goods weren’t intended for you or that the sender didn’t have the right to send or deliver them to you.
Note: For 10 working days after you receive unsolicited goods, you shouldn’t throw them away or deliberately damage them. If you do so, the sender can demand payment. However, you’re not responsible for any accidental damage.
What are my rights and obligations if someone provides unsolicited services?
If someone provides you with unsolicited services, you don’t have to pay for them. For example, if someone mows your lawns without asking you first, they can’t make you pay. You’re also not responsible for any loss or damage that the services caused to someone else’s property, unless this resulted from something you did deliberately.
Can someone demand payment for unsolicited goods or services?
If someone in business (whether an individual trader or a company) provides you with unsolicited goods or services, it’s a criminal offence for them to claim, or appear to claim, that they have a right to be paid for them. It’s also an offence for them to send you an invoice or other document stating a price, unless this clearly states that you don’t have to pay. The penalty for these offences is a fine of up to $200,000 for an individual trader, or up to $600,000 for a company.