Finance Consumer Consumer rights in Australia: Warranties, returns and repairs
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Consumer rights in Australia: Warranties, returns and repairs

Consumere are entitled to a number of guarantees under Australian Consumer Law. Photo: Getty
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When it comes to gifts, most agree it’s the thought that counts.

Now that Christmas is over, though, many people are taking inventory of unwanted household appliances, ill-fitting clothing, or their own frenzied festive season purchases.

So if you’re wondering what your rights are when it comes to returns, refunds, or warranties, read on.

Consumer guarantees

If you buy a product from an Australian business you are automatically protected by consumer guarantees.

Consumer guarantees apply to:

  • New, second-hand and sale items
  • Online purchases
  • Bundled products
  • Gifts with proof of purchase (receipt or bank statement).

The consumer guarantees include stipulations that products must:

  • Be of ‘acceptable quality’
  • Match descriptions made by salesperson, on packaging and labels, and in promotions or advertising
  • Be fit for the purpose the business told you it would be fit for, and;
  • Meet any extra promises made about performance, condition and quality, such as lifetime guarantees, money-back offers and the availability of spare parts and repair facilities.

If the product doesn’t meet a consumer guarantee, a store or seller must provide a ‘remedy’ such as:

  • A refund
  • Repairs
  • A replacement
  • Compensation.

“You can claim a remedy from the retailer if the products do not meet any one or more of the consumer guarantees, with the exception of availability of spare parts and repair facilities,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission advises.

“The remedies you can seek from the retailer who sold you the product include a repair, replacement or refund and, in some cases, compensation for damages and loss.”

It’s important to note the retailer you bought the product from cannot refuse to help you by sending you to the manufacturer or importer.

Consumer guarantees don’t cover buyer’s remorse

Shoppers should be mindful that there are a number of instances where consumer guarantees do not apply.

These include:

  • If you simply changed your mind or found the product at a cheaper price elsewhere
  • Caused a problem with the product by misusing it
  • Knew of faults before you purchased the product
  • Asked for a service to be done in a certain way against the advice of the business or were unclear about what you wanted.

It’s unlawful for retailers to say ‘no refunds’

It’s not uncommon to see retailers displaying signs proclaiming ‘No refunds’ or ‘No refunds or exchanges on sale items’, despite the fact this violates Australian Consumer Law.

Such signs imply that it’s not possible to get a refund under any circumstances, including for faulty items, which is incorrect.

In fact, your consumer guarantee rights still apply.

However, the ACCC points out that retailers “don’t have to give you a refund or exchange if you simply change your mind”, so always check the store’s returns policy before buying.

Warranties and expiry dates

Consumer guarantees do not have an expiry date but rather apply for the amount of time that is reasonable to expect, given the cost and quality of the item.

“This means a consumer may be entitled to a remedy under their statutory rights after any manufacturer’s voluntary or extended warranty has expired,” the ACCC says.

“For example, it is reasonable to expect that an expensive television should not develop a serious fault after 13 months of normal use.

“In this case, the consumer could argue the item was not of merchantable quality and ask for it to be repaired, even if the manufacturer’s voluntary warranty had expired.”

State and territory consumer protection agencies

If you need help resolving a consumer complaint, contact your local state and territory consumer protection agency.

They will provide you with information about your rights and options, and may also be able to help negotiate a resolution.

Consumers can also contact the ACCC for information about consumer rights, and possible courses of action.

The ACCC does not resolve individual complaints, but it will take consumer concerns on board.

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