Australian Consumer Law – Know your Rights when Returning Products
Choice.com.au conducted a report this December to understand where Australian retailers were failing to acknowledge the rights that consumers have. Christmas shopping is a prime time for large retailers such as Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and the Good Guys to take advantage of shoppers. They do this by employing incapable staff members who don’t fully understand the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The result is that many customers are being denied their consumer rights claim the ACCC and Choice. If you want to find out how you can save money and not be taken advantage of by big bully retailers, it’s time you learnt the laws and most importantly your rights surrounding this issue. Especially as Christmas can result in us receiving the odd present we could really do with returning (no offence Gran).
The ACL Consumer Rights Tips
- If a major problem occurs, you have the right to ask for a refund or replacement, rather than just a repair.
- If the products quality isn’t acceptable, the retailer cannot charge you for fixing it.
- Retailers must not refer you to the manufacturer; they must legally rectify your issue.
- The retailer should cover transportation costs for large electronics e.g. white goods and TVs.
- Retailers must notify you if a replacement is second-hand or refurbished parts have been used to repair it.
- Retailers must make repairs within a reasonable time. Mobile phones and fridges, for example, must take high priority otherwise you can demand a replacement.
- A faulty product does not have to be returned in its original packaging.
- Extended warranties wont cover you much more than the ACL will, so it can be a big waste of money.
- If you have lost the receipt, the following can be used as proof of purchase: credit card statement that itemises the goods, confirmation or receipt number from internet or mobile transaction, warranty card showing the date, price and place of purchase or a production or serial number if the retailer stores these on their system.
- A ‘No refund’ sign is against the law. You can return something if it doesn’t do what you reasonably expected it to do. Stores are not required to accept a return if you find a better deal or simply change your mind.
The results from Choice’s study found that almost 50% of sales people from large retailers got the Australian Consumer Law wrong or completely missed planet earth and were up in the stratosphere of incorrect. It would appear that 5 years after the introduction of the ACL, employees are either choosing to ignore it, or employers are failing miserably at educating their staff.
As stated within the consumer law, you can return a faulty TV to the store or contact the manufacturer within a reasonable time after the warranty has expired. Each scenario will be different and guarantees are not limited to set periods of time, but rather they depend on certain individual circumstances. The sales price, representations and anything else about the product at the point of sale can be discussed to judge the reasonable time a product should still operate.
This basically means the retailer or the manufacturer could still be obliged to provide a solution to a customer after the warranty has expired. Therefore the retailer should take the TV back to assess it on a case-by-case basis, to understand if it’s eligible. However, the most common phrases from sales people (that were deemed a complete fail by Choice) were probably some of what you have heard before:
- The TV isn’t covered because both the manufacturer and voluntary warranty have expired
- The store will accept the TV, but any repairs would be at your expense
- The retailer is not responsible, you can only contact the manufacturer
- You would have been covered if you had bought our extended warranty
Choice organised a shadow shop to test each of the large retailers. The scenario would usually involve a mystery shopper posing as a customer who was interested in buying a big-screen TV priced between $2,000 and $3,000. Those pretend customers called 109 stores consisting of Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and the Good Guys to ask if the TV could be returned if it stopped working within 2 years of their purchase date. Bear in mind that most manufacturers provide a 1-year warranty whilst each store will also offer its own voluntary extended warranty to purchase on top, which can vary. The following is a brief snapshot of the test conducted by Choice.com.au and some of the responses that their mystery customers received when calling. Certain employees should be pretty ashamed of themselves, in my opinion!
Choice called 44 stores and 48% failed the test.
Best response: It’s a grey area. It depends on what’s wrong and what the products expectations are for the length of time it should last for in accordance with the price you paid.
Worst response: You will have to pay for a technician to assess the problem and that could cost you thousands of dollars.
Choice called nine Harvey Norman stores that were franchisees, which had been prosecuted and fined in the past by the ACCC for disregarding the consumer law. Ashamedly, 6 out of the 9 stores still failed.
Choice called 43 stores and 49% failed the test.
Best response: There should never be a time when you get a definitive no, the manager will look at it on a case-by-case basis before deciding.
Worst response: Once the warranty period is complete, it’s a headache for customers because there is nothing we can do.
The Good Guys
Choice called 22 stores and 45% failed the test.
Best response: It depends on what the problem is plus how long you have had the TV for and what kind of TV it is.
Worst response: Once you have passed the 12-month manufacturers warranty there is nothing the store can do and 9 times out of 10 the manufacturer wont help you either.
It’s very disappointing to see that numerous retailers are not educating their staff correctly and across so many stores as well. The ACCC have raised concerns numerous times to customers that buying additional protection doesn’t actually give you anything more. The ACL gives all Australian customers the right to a refund, repair or replacement if the product doesn’t work, meaning extended warranties don’t give the customer a good deal at all.
Be vigilant this Christmas and make sure you arm yourself before you head to the returns bay with this knowledge.