ACCC advises shoppers on their consumer rights to a repair, refund or exchange

Do you know your consumer rights?

In this video, the ACCC explains what your consumer rights are.

If a shop has turned you away, saying it can't help you with your faulty product, go back and utter the magic words "Australian Consumer Law" and exercise your rights.

With Christmas and Boxing Day sales now behind us, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is reminding shoppers of their automatic guarantee rights that a product will work for a reasonable amount of time under the ACL.

The commission said it received more than 20,000 complaints from shoppers who had problems exercising their rights – officially called "consumer guarantees" – in 2016.

Yes, you can give me a hand.
Yes, you can give me a hand. Photo: Erin Jonasson

More than a quarter were in relation to difficulties returning electronics and whitegoods.

ACCC acting chairman Michael Schaper said shoppers with faulty products should utter the "magic" three words "Australian Consumer Law" to let retailers know they're aware of their rights.

"If you buy a phone that comes with a one-year manufacturer's warranty, that express warranty is in addition to your rights under consumer law," Dr Schaper said.

"Under the ACL, you are guaranteed that the phone is safe, lasting, free of faults, is of acceptable quality and functions as a phone," he said.

"If the phone, or any other consumer electronics or whitegoods, doesn't meet these guarantees, you are entitled to a remedy."

A product should do what it's meant to do for a reasonable period of time. If it's a dud, depending on the type of fault, you can choose a remedy.

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For example, if it has a problem that would have stopped you from buying it had you known or is significantly different from the way it was described, that's considered a major fault and you can choose between a refund, replacement, or repair.

If the fault is minor, the seller can choose to give you a free repair instead of a replacement or refund.

Consumer guarantees were introduced in 2011 and apply to products and services, including gifts with proof of purchase, sale items, online products and services bought from Australian businesses, and second-hand products from businesses, taking into account age and condition.

Energy costs are among factors making households more pessimistic.
Energy costs are among factors making households more pessimistic. 

The guarantees do not apply if you've simply changed your mind; found it cheaper somewhere else; decided you did not like the purchase or had no use for it; or knew of or were made aware of the faults before you bought the product.

Don't be fooled

Here's what Dr Schaper had to say about these common but questionable claims by retailers:

  • "Sorry, the warranty on your product has expired"
ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Schaper says the new regime only applies to contracts that are offered to small businesses ...
ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Schaper says the new regime only applies to contracts that are offered to small businesses on a "take it or leave it" basis. 

"Whether or not a product is within the manufacturer's express warranty, or covered by an extended warranty, has no effect on your right to a remedy under the ACL consumer guarantees. You may still have rights under the consumer guarantees regime as and the length of time that these rights apply is unrelated to any manufacturer's warranty period," Dr Schaper said.

  • "You'll have to take it back to the manufacturer"

"If you return a faulty product to the retailer from which you bought it, they must provide you with a remedy and cannot direct you to the manufacturer. You can also claim a remedy from the manufacturer, but you are only entitled to recover damages, which may include the cost of the product," he said.

  • "You should buy an extended warranty so you're covered if anything goes wrong after 12 months"

"Purchasing an extended warranty might mean that you are paying for rights you already have for free under the ACL. You should ask the seller to explain what the extended warranty gives you over and above the ACL," Dr Schaper said.

If you have trouble obtaining a remedy, the ACCC suggests making a complaint to the business. If this is unsuccessful, lodge a complaint with the ACCC.

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