ACCC warns consumers

New data has revealed that consumers are increasingly contacting the ACCC about issues with faulty products and services. In 2018, the ACCC received nearly 34,000 contacts about consumer guarantee related issues, an increase of more than 17% compared to 2017.

“This is one of the busiest shopping periods of the year, so it’s important people remember they have rights if they’ve received a Christmas present or purchased an item during the Boxing Day sales that later fails,” acting chair Roger Featherston said.

“These consumer guarantee rights mean you’re entitled to a remedy, either a repair, replacement or refund. If the problem is minor, the retailer who sold the item can choose the remedy. If the problem is major, the consumer chooses the remedy.”

A minor failure is where a problem with a product can be fixed in a reasonable time. A major problem is where the fault is more serious. For example, this includes if the product doesn’t work anymore and can’t be fixed, if it’s significantly different from its description, if it doesn’t do what was asked for, or if it’s unsafe.

“Consumer guarantees are set in stone in the Australian Consumer Law, meaning businesses cannot alter or change them in any way,” Featherston said.
People should be wary about potentially misleading claims when returning faulty items. For example, a business may claim they can’t help as the product is out of warranty, that the consumer has to take it to the manufacturer, or that because it was a sale item and cannot be returned.

• A manufacturer’s warranty is separate to Australian Consumer Law (ACL) rights so even if a product is out of warranty the consumer may be entitled to a remedy.
• The retailer who sells the product must help with a remedy if it turns out to be faulty and cannot claim it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to help not theirs.
• Sale items are covered by consumer guarantees. If the sale item later breaks, the same rights apply it makes no difference when purchased at discounted price.

“A lot of people like to shop online, including at overseas-based retailers. Another common complaint we receive is that a business won’t help a consumer with a faulty item as they are based overseas and aren’t subject to the Australian Consumer Law,” Featherston said. “Any overseas business that sells products to people in Australia is bound by our consumer law and must help you.”

He added that consumer guarantees did not apply for a change of mind.

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