The ACCC has instituted Federal Court proceedings against online retailer Booktopia Pty Ltd for making false or misleading representations to consumers about their rights to refunds and other remedies for faulty or damaged goods.
On its website between 10 January 2020 and 2 November 2021, Booktopia allegedly represented that consumers had to notify it of a faulty, damaged or incorrect product within two days of delivery to have a right to a refund or other remedy, and that consumers had no right to refunds on certain products, including digital content and eBooks, in any circumstances.
In addition, in dealings with 19 consumers, Booktopia allegedly represented that it was not obliged to provide a refund or remedy because the consumer had failed to notify Booktopia of a fault within two days of delivery.
The ACCC alleges that the representations on Booktopia’s website and made directly by customer service staff to the 19 consumers were false or misleading because they did not reflect consumers’ rights to obtain a refund or other remedy under the consumer guarantee rights in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The ACL gives consumers a right to remedies if the goods do not meet the consumer guarantees, including if they are of unacceptable quality. Consumer guarantee rights extend to digital goods, and do not have a two-day expiration date.
“Consumers who buy digital products or buy products online have the same rights as those who shop in physical stores,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Australian consumers have a right to refund, repair or replacement for goods that do not meet their consumer guarantee rights which apply for a reasonable period, and no business can exclude, limit or modify those rights.”
The ACCC received complaints from consumers, including some who were denied a refund because they contacted Booktopia more than two days after they received their product.
“Consumers are not limited to a two-day period in which to notify a seller of problems with the product they have purchased. We allege that Booktopia misled consumers about their rights to refunds or other remedies, and did not allow them to make use of their consumer guarantee rights,” Mr Sims said.
“Booktopia’s conduct may have caused consumers not to seek a refund, replacement or repair for faulty digital products, books and other goods in circumstances where the Australian Consumer Law gave them a right to do so.”
The ACCC is seeking penalties, declarations, costs and other orders.
Further information about consumer guarantee rights is available at Consumer rights & guarantees.
Booktopia is an Australian online seller of books, audiobooks, DVDs and eBooks and one of the largest book retailers in Australia. Its parent company is ASX-listed Booktopia Group Ltd. Booktopia Group is the largest Australian-owned online book retailer by market share.
The ACCC has brought proceedings against other traders for misrepresenting consumer guarantees in their dealings with consumers. In June 2020, the Federal Court ordered Sony Interactive Entertainment Network Europe Limited to pay $3.5 million in penalties for making false and misleading representations on its website and in dealings with consumers who believed they had bought faulty PlayStation games.
In 2018, the High Court affirmed the Full Federal Court’s decision in the ACCC’s case against gaming retailer Valve Corporation which was ordered to pay $3 million in penalties for making false or misleading representations to Australian customers about their ACL rights.