Faulty product? What are consumer rights?

@AuManufacturing’s recent feature on shoddy imports has cast light on Australian Consumer Law. Here we explain consumer rights when faced with minor and major faults.

By Helen Hull

New data just released reveals people 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. This is an increase of more than 17 per cent compared to 2017. People commonly contacted the ACCC about issues with faulty cars, electronics, whitegoods, and clothing.

“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,” ACCC 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, you get to choose your 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 you 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,” Mr Featherston said.

“A key trick we always tell people is to use the words ‘Australian Consumer Law’ when returning a faulty product so the retailer knows you’re aware of your rights.”

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 you have to take it to the manufacturer, or that because it was a sale item you can’t return it.

These statements are all not true because:
•A manufacturer’s warranty is separate to your Australian Consumer Law (ACL) rights so even if a product is out of warranty, you still may be entitled to a remedy.
•The retailer who sells you the product must help with a remedy if it turns out to be faulty. They can’t claim it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to help you and not theirs.
•Sale items are covered by consumer guarantees. If the sale item later breaks, you have the same rights—it makes no difference if you pay a 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,” Mr Featherston said.

“This also isn’t true. Any overseas business that sells products to people in Australia is bound by our consumer law and must help you.”

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

“If you received a gift that you don’t like, or changed your mind about something you bought at the Boxing Day sales, consumer guarantee rights don’t apply, but some retailers may let you exchange gifts for another item,” Mr Featherston said.

This article first appeared in the First5000 LinkedIn group.

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