New Zealand: Facebook to provide platform for you to order food, buy tickets, book appointments and obtain quotes

Last Updated: 26 October 2016
Article by Katrina Hammon
Most Read Contributor in New Zealand, December 2018

In a previous article we outlined Facebook Marketplace launching in New Zealand. It provides a space for both private individuals and companies to trade their goods at an online auction. In light of this launch, an overview of the relevant law applying to these online auction sites such as Trade Me or Ebay was published here.

Beyond the marketplace, Facebook has now announced new abilities for consumers to streamline obtaining goods or services through Facebook; for now this is just in the US. It is going to include features which allow users to do things such as order food, buy tickets or even get quotes and make appointments with businesses, all on Facebook. This is an attempt to bring all of these features into one app, rather than using a number of different apps or websites to achieve the same outcome. It creates opportunities for businesses to have more direct and immediate access to consumers, whilst providing greater efficiency for those consumers.

Another interesting feature will be an inclusion of a tool for recommendations. When a user requests recommendations from other users, such as friends or family, it will allow those users to collate recommendations that are received and map and save them in one place.

A quick summary of the likely new features:

  • Order food directly from a local restaurant's Facebook page. In the US, the restaurant must already be using a third-party delivery service such as Menu Log here in New Zealand.
  • Book appointments through a service provider's Facebook page, such as café/restaurant, beauty therapist, barber/hairdresser and fitness classes.
  • Ticket sales for events; in the US, consumers can now buy tickets from Eventbrite and Ticketmaster through their Facebook pages. This allows for a QR code ticket to be stored on your Facebook account and then presented using your mobile phone.
  • Recommendation or referral requests, like for a plumber, hairdresser or café. Facebook will be able to detect you're asking for a referral and will allow your Facebook friends to respond with referrals. All referrals will then be identified on a map

Just like Facebook Marketplace, there will be questions arising when a transaction goes wrong, and just who is responsible must be clear from the outset. Some key legal issues that may arise are:

  • Data retention: The Privacy Act 1993 prescribes 12 Privacy principles to guide the use of individual's data. This includes that data must be collected directly from the person concerned, unless agreed otherwise. Digital marketing and the use of algorithms will often mean that businesses or websites contract out of this in principle to sell data to third parties for more direct marketing, through the use of tools such as cookies on websites. As we all know, this would require us to accept the terms of use of a website when we visit it, or agree to do so in user agreements, such as when we set up a Facebook account.
  • Quotes: Quotes are an offer to do a job for an exact price. If accepted by the customer, a contractor or business can't charge more than that price. Providing accurate quotes online may be more difficult for businesses to do, as they may be providing a quote based on more limited information than they would have if in person. Or the higher demand for quotes may make it difficult to remain accurate and not over- or undercharge consumers for their products.
  • Scams/hacking: Big hacks on global corporations, such as the recent hacks of PlayStation users' data in Japan or that of Target's consumer rewards programme in the US, show that there is no guarantee for consumers that a business will be able to completely protect their data privacy. Businesses should be active in protecting both their own computer systems and the data they hold of consumers, as well as the protection provided by any host servers they may use.
  • Quality control: When quality falls below expectations or is unable to be met, who is responsible? Would Facebook be liable if goods are not up to standard? Currently, online auction sites such as Trademe make it a condition of using their service that they take no responsibility or liability for the actions of their users, and that members of the site use the site at their own risk. It is likely that Facebook would follow a similar approach in providing these new services to consumers and businesses.

Businesses engaged in selling goods and/or services are regarded as being in trade and the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) and the Fair Trading Act (FTA) apply to them. For transactions between private individuals, however, these Acts do not apply, and the general principle of caveat emptor (or 'buyer beware') applies.

Private individuals are left with the Contractual Remedies Act and the Disputes Tribunal as their best means of seeking recourse when a transaction goes wrong. There is also the Sale of Goods Act 1908 when a product does not meet the description that was given for it at the time of sale. This serves as a reminder that businesses must be aware of their obligations under the various laws that govern sales transactions in New Zealand, whilst consumers should carefully read the policies and terms and conditions of each online site they are purchasing from. Knowing your rights and being smart on how you use these sites can save you stress in the long run.

While these features are not yet available in New Zealand, it is expected to only be a matter of time before they arrive. They could be an exciting step forward in technology and capability for New Zealand businesses.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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