Top 10 Tips to stay on top of Australian Consumer Law and avoid the ACCC

In light of Harvey Norman’s latest run-in with the ACCC over Australian Consumer Law provisions for product guarantees, Appliance Retailer today presents 10 tips on how to avoid turning up in front of a Federal Court judge. These tips were sourced with the help of the ACCC, with research conducted by Claire Reilly.

1. The Consumer Guarantees apply broadly to goods or services that cost less than $40,000, or that cost more than $40,000 but are of a kind ordinarily acquired for domestic, household or personal use.

2. Product safety laws apply broadly to consumer goods and product-related services to ensure they operate safely. These guarantees are set under law and exist irrespective of whether a voluntary, manufacturer’s or extended warranty is offered; and businesses must be aware of what remedy should be provided, in particular, who gets to choose the type of remedy, this will depend on how serious the problem is.

3. If the problem is major or cannot be remedied within a reasonable time, the consumer is entitled to choose whether they would prefer a full refund or a refund of the difference between the price paid and the actual value of the goods with the problem. If the problem is not major and can be easily remedied, the retailer is entitled to choose whether they should give a refund or repair/replace goods.

4. Consumers are free to seek a remedy from the retailer or the manufacturer. Retailers may send the good to the manufacturer for diagnosis or repair, but they cannot require consumers to deal with the manufacturer directly. Retailers should provide a remedy to the consumer within a reasonable time so they should have procedures in place to follow up on goods that are sent away for diagnosis or repair. Also, if retailers find that there is a major problem or a problem that cannot be easily fixed, they should advise the consumer of this and allow them to choose their preferred remedy.

5. Consumer guarantees apply to descriptions of products made in advertisements or in sales pitches. Products sold to consumers based upon specific claims must meet those claims, or consumers are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund.

6. When considering how long a product is covered by the Consumer Guarantees, you need to take into account the amount of time that is reasonable to expect given the cost and quality of the item or any representations made about the item.

7. Sellers and manufacturers can make extra promises about their goods and services but it is important to remember that these are in addition to the consumer guarantees and cannot be used to avoid liability. Consumers may be entitled to ask the seller to fix their problem even if any voluntary or extended warranty has expired.

8. It is important for sellers and manufacturers to ensure that their voluntary or extended warranty does not mislead a consumer into thinking that this is the extent of their rights, and once the warranty period is over they no longer have a right to a remedy.

9. Consumers have certain obligations in relation to the products they purchase. For example, consumers are not entitled to a remedy if they have been careless or caused the damage themselves. Consumers also may not be entitled to a remedy if they have used the product abnormally or the damage was caused by someone other than the retailer or manufacturer, for example, a third party who installed the goods.

10. The ACCC and the state and territory consumer protection agencies are engaging with businesses in the electronic, telecommunications and whitegoods sectors as these sectors have produced significant monetary detriment for consumers in recent years. Research in this area shows Australians incur out-of-pocket costs estimated at $1.9 billion, according to a National Education & Information Advisory Taskforce study.

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