Consumer NZ moves from testing products to testing businesses with new accreditation scheme

From men in white coats to stickers showing awards won to independent accreditation, endorsements give consumers confidence that what they spend their cash on is up to snuff. And Consumer NZ, the Kiwi non-profit that started in 1959 to delve into the quality of products and services and investigate consumer issues, has launched a scheme called Consumer Trusted to enhance that.

New Zealand has a range of accreditation programmes covering everything from environmental and safety practices to employment, training and product quality, and there are various schemes in particular industries. But Consumer NZ boss Sue Chetwin says the new programme plays to its strengths.

“It’s a way of us extending our programme of testing of products and services to whole businesses but certainly we’re using our trusted and independent brand to do it. There are others out there. None of the others have quite the same history and mana that Consumer does.”

Consumer Trusted is based on a Code of Conduct for the accredited business, which includes the right to exchange or return for a full refund a non-perishable product within 30 days of purchase; no bond charge for returning faulty goods; refunds for products worth over $100 that go on sale within a week of purchase; and advisors to help customers of the accredited business.

It also uses eight principles: excellent customer service; fair, clear returns and refunds policies; an informative and up-to-date website; fair complaints and disputes procedures; fair and easily understood contracts; clear pricing; no exploitation of customer details and accurate advertising.

A big business will pay about $25,000 to be accredited, with smaller firms charged in the low thousands, says Chetwin, adding companies will be re-certified each year initially.

Consumer wants to add about 25 companies to the scheme by the end of the year, she says, including a mix of small and large firms. It also wants to add recognition of sustainable practices and environmental awareness to the programme in future.

Accredited companies can also offer benefits to consumer members, with 2degrees and Powershop already offering discounted services.

Companies that are accredited are given a brand mark to display, which is similar to its other endorsement scheme Consumer Recommends. The Consumer Recommends brand mark is available to manufacturers, distributors and service providers to use in advertising and promotion. It can only be used for those products and services that have been awarded Consumer Recommends status, subject to meeting licence conditions.

Chetwin says 150 licences have been in market since it launched in 2009, ranging from dishwasher detergents and washing powder to refrigerators and televisions, with 20 in market currently.

Along with the new Consumer Trusted scheme, Consumer also launched a new website last week. Currently it appears to be stuck in a loop, with every link clicked returning you to the homepage, even if you’re trying to access some of the free content like ‘news and blogs’ or ‘about us’. Apparently, the big yellow box that pops up down the bottom of the page is meant to convince everyone to sign up, either as a paid member or for free. But at the moment it’s all fairly confusing. 

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