Consumers urged to use refund rights, return faulty goods

Consumer group Choice is reminding consumers that they have legal rights to return faulty products, even if store policies purport to say they cannot.

With Christmas presents having been opened and used for the first time over the weekend, and post-Christmas sales in full swing, the consumer advocacy group said customers need to be aware of their right to return defective products.

Under the Australian Consumer Law, people who buy goods in Australia are entitled to return it to the place of purchase or manufacturer if it is not of an acceptable quality.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's website says that to be of acceptable quality a product must be:

  • Safe, lasting, with no faults
  • Look acceptable
  • Do all the things someone would normally expect it to do

Acceptable quality takes into account what would normally be expected for the type of product and the cost so, for example, an expensive top-of-the-range fridge might be expected to last several years while a cheap children's toy will have a much shorter expected lifespan.

If the faulty item is quite large it's the retailers responsibility to pay for transportation.

Tom Godfrey, Choice

There are no hard and fast rules for particular products in the law, so it is based on what a reasonable person would consider is acceptable.

Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said a key point for consumers to remember is that the warranty period under the law may last longer than any warranty that the manufacturer or retailer expressly provides.

"Under the Australian Consumer Law you can return a faulty product such as a TV or washing machine to the store or contact the manufacturer within a reasonable period of time, even after the manufacturer's warranty has expired," he said in a statement.

"It's also worth remembering that if the faulty item is quite large it's the retailers responsibility to pay for transportation."

Many retailers still misleading consumers: Choice

For a minor fault, the retailer that sold you the good or manufacturer that made it can offer you a free repair, as long as the repair is performed within a reasonable period of time.

However, if there is a major fault with the good then you can ask for a replacement or refund - replaced products must be of an identical type to the one purchased and refunds must be for the amount you have already paid and provided in the same form as your original payment (i.e. the store cannot offer you a voucher if you purchased the good with cash or credit card).

Choice top ten consumer rights tips

  1. "No refund" signs are against the law
  2. If a product isn't of acceptable quality, the retailer can't charge you to fix it
  3. Retailers can't just refer you to the manufacturer
  4. If the fault is "major", you can ask for a refund or replacement rather than a repair
  5. Retailers should pay the transportation cost for bulky items
  6. You should be informed if a replacement is second-hand or if refurbished parts have been used
  7. Repairs must be made within a reasonable time
  8. You don't have to return a faulty product in its original packaging
  9. If you've lost a receipt you can still show proof of purchase with a credit card statement, confirmation or receipt number from an internet or phone transaction
  10. Extended warranties are often not necessary as they may not cover much more than the Australian Consumer Law

Mr Godfrey said Choice has caught out many retailers that have tried to mislead consumers about their rights.

"From displaying illegal no refund signs, fobbing you off to the manufacturer, forcing you to accept a shorter manufacturer's warranty or insisting you return the faulty product in its original packaging, retailers have been known to roll out some of the oldest tricks in the book," he said.

Many retailers also try and sell extended warranties, which may be redundant for some goods given the rights afforded under the Australian Consumer Law.

Mr Godfrey said a Choice investigation of over 100 major electronics retail outlets showed nearly half the shops' staff also lacked an understanding of basic consumer rights.

"With so many salespeople failing to understand your right to a repair, replacement or a refund, it's worth arming yourself will a few facts before heading in-store," he added.

However, while consumers have many legal rights to a repair, replacement or refund for faulty goods, the Australian Consumer Law does not offer any protection for a change of heart or a gift that did not hit the mark.

In those circumstances, Mr Godfrey said the customer's chances of a refund or exchange depend on the retailer's policy.

"You'll have to dance to a different tune if the product isn't faulty and you just change your mind. So it's worth reading the store's returns policy," he concluded.

Source: ABC News

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