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
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
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
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
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
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
In addition to the penalties, these cases cause substantial
reputational harm, as well as disruption to the business during
the investigation and legal action.
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
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.
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.
© Kai Legal 2015
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