Consumers urged to pursue their rights

Misleading statements

Here are some retailer statements to watch out for, and an explanation of what consumers’ rights are.

Your product is out of warranty, so we can only repair it for a fee.

This isn’t right. Consumer guarantees are automatic and are separate from any voluntary warranty, manufacturer’s warranty, or extended warranty. Consumer rights can last longer than warranty rights, and you can ask for a repair, refund, or replacement after the warranty has expired.

No refunds under any circumstances.

This isn’t right. If your product has a major problem, under the consumer guarantees you have a right to choose a refund.

To be eligible for a refund, you must return the product within 10 days.

Businesses can’t apply a time limit on your rights to notify them or return a faulty product.

You will need to contact the manufacturer to have this issue resolved.

This isn’t right. As a first step you should contact the business that sold you the product.

If you don’t buy the extended warranty, you’ll have no protection once the 12-month warranty expires.

This isn’t right. Consumer guarantees are separate from any warranties, and they may still apply after a warranty has expired.

Consumers lodged 28,000 complaints to consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), last year about product guarantees or warranties.

Most of these related to motor vehicles, electronics, whitegoods, and homewares. Product and service warranty and quality issues have consistently been the most reported consumer concerns, sparking the ACCC to issue a statement encouraging Australians to know their consumer rights.

The ACCC especially wants us to know and take advantage of consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law when dealing with businesses over defective products or poorly performed services.

“When you buy a product or service from a business, you have automatic rights called ‘consumer guarantees’ under the Australian Consumer Law and they exist regardless of any warranty offered by the business,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.

The good news is that even if a voluntary warranty, manufacturer’s warranty, or extended warranty has expired, you may still be able to use your consumer guarantee rights, which don’t have a specific expiry date.

“Consumer guarantees apply for a period of time that is considered reasonable having regard to the nature of the products or services, including the price paid” Ms Lowe said.

“This might be longer than the period of any warranty provided by a retailer or manufacturer.”

You are guaranteed that the purchased product will be of acceptable quality, match its description and do what a business tells you it can do. If it doesn’t, you are entitled to a free repair for a minor problem, or a replacement or refund for anything major.

A warranty cannot replace, change or take away a consumer’s basic legal rights.

The acceptable quality guarantee includes that products will be as durable as a reasonable consumer would regard as acceptable for that product. What is reasonable for the durability of a product will depend on things like the type of product, the price, and how it is likely to be used.

The ACCC has taken enforcement action against several companies in recent years for misleading consumers about their consumer guarantee rights, and more investigations are underway to address misleading practices and deter businesses from doing the wrong thing.

What you should do

If a product develops a major problem, you should let the business know that you think there is a major problem with it under the consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law.

You can tell the business you are rejecting the product, state what remedy you would like, and explain why you think there is a major problem.

Information about consumer rights is available online. This includes information about contacting a business to fix a problem and a complaint letter tool to help consumers prepare a written complaint.

If contacting the business does not resolve the issue, as a second step, consumers can contact their local state or territory consumer protection agency about their rights and options. These agencies are listed here.

The ACCC also has further information about contacting a business to fix a problem and where to go for consumer help.


John Austin

John Austin

National Seniors Policy and Communications Officer

/Public Release. View in full here.