Under Australian Consumer Law, you have consumer rights. Businesses that sell products or services (suppliers) automatically provide consumer law guarantees about those products or services. Likewise, manufacturers (including importers) provide guarantees over their products as well.
The goods and services that are covered by Australian Consumer Law are:
- Goods or services with a cost of up to $40,000,
- Goods or services costing more than $40,000 which are normally used for personal, domestic or household purposes, and
- A vehicle or trailer regardless of its cost.
Suppliers and manufacturers both guarantee that goods are of:
- Acceptable quality,
- Matching the description given (for example, through advertising), and
- Matching the sample or demonstration model.
Suppliers guarantee that their goods for sale:
- Have clear title unless otherwise stated (this means that the business owns the item wholly and has the right to sell it unless they tell you otherwise),
- Do not have any undisclosed securities (for example, a loan hasn’t been taken out that uses the item being sold as a guarantee),
- Are fit for the described purpose, and
- Have a right to undisturbed possession (this means that no one will try to take the item from you once you have bought it).
Suppliers guarantee that their services are provided:
- With due care and skill,
- That fit the required purposes, and
- Within a reasonable time (where no time is set).
Additionally, manufacturers guarantee that:
- Spare parts and repairs will be reasonably available, and
- Any express warranties will be honoured.
If you’ve purchased a good or service that doesn’t fulfil one or more of the guarantees, you have a right to repair, refund or replacement, depending on the circumstances.
You don’t have the right to a refund or replacement if you have simply changed your mind and businesses have the right to set their own policy in this circumstance.
Consumer rights – When can I return an item?
If the item:
- Doesn’t match the description or demonstration model and is so different you would not have bought it,
- It doesn’t match what the salesperson told you it would,
- It doesn’t do what you asked for, or
- The item is faulty.
When is an item faulty?
- It doesn’t do what it is normally supposed to do,
- It has a defect,
- It is unsafe,
- It is unacceptable in appearance or finish, or
- It isn’t durable (it doesn’t last as long as it reasonably should).
You can still return a faulty item even if you only found out it was faulty after you used it. Returned items don’t need to be in their original packaging.
Returning the item
In most cases, you are responsible for returning the item to the store, unless it is not reasonably possible for you to do so. For example, if the item is large.
Consumer rights – Repair, refund or replacement
You have consumer rights to ask for a replacement or refund if the problem with the item or service is ‘major’. A major problem is one that can’t be fixed or would take too long or is too difficult to fix. Alternatively, you can ask for compensation for the drop in value of the item or service.
If the problem is ‘minor’, the business can choose whether to refund, repair or replace the item or service. If the business offers you a repair, you have to accept their offer.
If the store takes too long or refuses to fix the problem, you can:
- Ask for a refund or replacement, or
- Get someone else to repair the item and ask the store to pay reasonable costs for the repair.
Refunds should be the same amount as you paid for the item or service and the money should be returned to you in the same form that you paid.
Consumer rights – I don’t have a receipt
You don’t need to have a receipt to return an item, however you do need proof of purchase. If you don’t have a receipt, proof of purchase could be:
- A credit card or bank statement,
- A lay-by agreement, or
- A confirmation or receipt number from a phone or online purchase.
You can also return gifts, as long as you have proof of purchase.
Consumer rights – Sale, second hand and online items
Consumer guarantees apply to sale items, second hand items and items bought online in Australia. It is illegal for businesses to display signs saying that they don’t give refunds under any circumstances, including during sales.
However you do not have the right to claim a refund on an item that is advertised as on sale due to a defect. If you’re buying a second hand item, you also need to take into account the item’s age, price and condition at the time of sale before claiming a refund.
Consumer rights – Time limit on returns
Your rights under Australian Consumer Law have no specific expiry date and depend on the nature of the item that you bought and how long it would reasonably be expected to last.