The mad rush and cash splurge that is December is a dangerous time for your rights, the consumer watchdog says.
ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Schaper told The New Daily that keeping a wary eye on your rights is especially important during the silly season.
“People rush in, people make last minute decisions, and sometimes they’re not going to necessarily consider it the same way they might if they had a little bit more time to reflect and ask questions,” says ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Schaper.
Here’s what you need to keep an eye on while filling those stockings.
Whatever Santa’s big helpers buy must be what they asked for, as they requested it and as advertised.
Defects are broken down into “major” and “minor” flaws.
A major problem is something so fundamental that you probably wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. For example, if you ask for a waterproof watch and it falls apart the moment you wash your hands, that’s a major defect.
For a major defect, you can demand one of the three Rs – repair, refund or replacement.
But if the problem with your watch is simply that the band is scratched, that’s a minor defect.
By all means, ask for a refund or replacement and you might get lucky. But by law the shopkeeper only has to offer a repair.
Money back, but not quite guaranteed
Simply put, no shop can put a blanket ban on refunds. But you are only entitled to one if there is something majorly wrong with your Christmas present.
The fact that Uncle Tom doesn’t like the bright yellow sweater you bought him doesn’t give you a legal right to get your money back. Maybe ask him what colour he likes first.
Of course, the store has to keep any promises it makes. So if they give you a money back guarantee, you can take that to the bank.
‘I’m just looking’
You are entitled not to be harassed or coerced by any retailer, service provider or their agent, so don’t feel like you have to put up with a pushy seller. Just ask them politely to let you browse in peace.
But you might want to call them back over and tell them very explicitly what you need before you buy, otherwise you might have fewer protections.
For example, if you tell a shop attendant that you need a waterproof watch and they sell you the chronological equivalent of a landlubber, you’re protected. But if you accidentally buy the non-waterproof version, you may have to live with your mistake.
If you aren’t given a receipt, you have the right to ask for one. For everything over $75, you shouldn’t need to ask — a receipt should be automatic.
While a printed receipt is the best, other forms are perfectly acceptable — such as photos, credit card statements and Paypal transactions. Just make sure you have something.
“It’s important to keep receipts, especially if they’re gifts because obviously it’s unreasonable to turn up to a store without any evidence. They are quite within their rights to question that,” Dr Schaper said.
You are entitled to see the total price, inclusive of any additional fees, charges or taxes. So that brand-spanking new toy cannot say $100 plus GST. It has to be upfront about exactly how much it costs.
And if, in the confusion of Christmas sales, you see two different prices advertised for that same toy, you can insist on paying the lower price.
You are entitled to a lay-by agreement that is clearly written and easy to read. You also have the right to cancel a lay-by agreement if you wish, but you can be charged a “reasonable” fee.
How can you enforce your rights?
If you have a problem, Dr Schaper said your first move should be to ask for the manager.
If you still get no satisfaction, then you are well within your rights to take further action. Get advice from your state’s consumer affairs body, which specialise in small matters, and then escalate it to the national consumer watchdog if you need to.
For more information, you can call the ACCC’s information centre on 1300 302 502.