For almost any products, you have the legal right to a refund, repair or replacement if they are faulty. You are also entitled to compensation for damage or loss. It is illegal for businesses to deny you this right.
You have similar rights for services.
If you are having problems getting a business to honour its obligations, a number of government fair trading authorities and independent ombudsmen can pursue them on your behalf. Kai Legal would also be happy to help.
The Australian Consumer Law provides you with guarantees that any goods or services you buy will work, and do what you asked for. All Australian retailers must honour these guarantees.
In practice, many businesses are not aware of their obligations, or do not honour them. We’ve all experienced businesses who claim that you:
This guide will outline your rights, and help you enforce them against these businesses.
Generally, goods or services sold, hired or leased for less than $40,000 are covered.
Goods or services over that amount are also covered if they are the type usually bought for personal or household use (eg. a family car).
You are not entitled to these rights when:
Separate rules cover insurance or financial services products.
The most important guarantee with goods is that they are of acceptable quality. This means that they:
Other important guarantees include that the goods:
With services, the guarantees are that:
If your goods do not meet the guarantees, then you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement. With services, you are entitled to a refund or a re-performance of the services.
When the fault is minor, the supplier can choose whether to give you a repair, refund or replacement. When it is a major fault, you have the right to choose.
It can be quite a grey area whether a particular fault is minor or major: in those cases, try to agree to a solution that is acceptable to both you and the supplier.
If you also suffered damage or loss, and the damage or loss was foreseeable by a supplier, then you are also entitled to compensation.
The retailer or service provider who supplied the goods or services to you is primarily responsible. They cannot refuse to help you by redirecting you to the manufacturer or importer.
In some cases, you are entitled to claim directly from a manufacturer. However you are not entitled to the full range of remedies, and only for certain guarantees. Find out more at the ACCC website.
Be factual and clear when you make a claim:
If you think the supplier has breached the law in refusing to honour your claim, there are several bodies that can provide you with extra information, or help for free:
Several specific industries also have Ombudsman services to assist:
Make sure to have details of what your problem was and what the supplier has told you ready.
It is very important to ensure that your returns policies and procedures comply with the law. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission proactively investigates non-compliant businesses, and regularly obtains substantial penalties against them.
For example, nine Harvey Norman franchisees were penalised $234,000 for misleading consumers about their rights in May 2014. In 2013, Hewlett Packard was penalised $3 million for similar reasons.
In addition to the penalties, these cases cause substantial reputational harm, as well as disruption to the business during the investigation and legal action.
Kai Fu 19 January 2015
Kai is an experienced consumer lawyer, being a former senior associate in the Competition and Consumer law team at the top tier international law firm Allens Linklaters. He continues to consult for the Competition and Consumer law group.
Kai’s relevant experience includes advising on the returns policy for a major international car manufacturer, a national auto servicing chain and an international sportswear supplier. Kai has also provided training to the staff of numerous major Australian retailers and manufacturers.
Call us on +61 3 9041 7733 if you would like to find out more.
We can also help you with pursuing a claim, or if you are a business owner, help you review or implement a compliant refund and returns policy.
You can also read or download a PDF copy of this publication.
Kai Legal publications provide general information, and are not legal advice. These are not complete summaries of the law, and only touch on select points and scenarios that may be relevant to our readers.
This fact sheet is current as of 19 January 2015.
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