“However, if a surcharge is applied, it must be clearly disclosed and the reasons must not mislead customers.”
She says businesses must describe the reasons for their surcharge accurately and not mislead shoppers or they could risk breaching the Fair Trading Act.
“For example a business must not claim their surcharge on Easter Sunday is because it is a public holiday, as the only public holidays over the Easter weekend are Good Friday and Easter Monday,” Rawlings says.
The Commerce Commission will be encouraging consumers who feel that they have been misled by a surcharge to contact it.
Most retailers are banned from trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. According to Retail NZ, shops such as dairies, service stations, souvenir shops, duty free stores, stores selling food ready to be eaten, bookstalls at public passenger transport terminals, pharmacies and shops at genuine exhibitions and shows may open. There is also a special provision for garden centres to open on Easter Sunday.
Unless a shop is specifically exempted, it is an offence to open on a non-trading day. Offenders are liable to prosecution and a $1,000 fine.
Retail NZ has called for a review on the laws. Chief executive Mark Johnston said yesterday that the many exemptions do not make sense in a modern trading environment and render the law “meaningless.”
“A corner dairy can open, but not a supermarket. You can go shopping in Queenstown or Taupo, but not Wanaka or Rotorua. A shop can be filled with workers packing Internet orders – but it can’t open the front door to the public. None of these restrictions make sense in 2015.”
Johnston acknowledged that not everyone wanted to shop or work during their public holidays, but said shopping was considered a family pastime by may New Zealanders. He pointed out that anyone could shop on the internet over the long weekend anyway.
Retail NZ will be writing to the government asking it to address the current law. Johnston said he hoped changes could be implemented before next Easter.