Myths and realities of shoppers’ rights
When you discover those gadgets you found under the Christmas tree don’t actually work, it’s handy to know your rights under Australian consumer law.
There are a lot of myths and horror stories about trying to return malfunctioning goods – many of them put out by the retailers trying to discourage you from even trying to get recompense.
The most notorious is the old retailer line ‘Sorry, no refunds’ or ‘You can’t have your money back – just store credit’.
Not true! You are legally entitled to a refund if the item you bought is not of acceptable quality, doesn’t do what it is supposed to do, is unsafe, is significantly different to what you were originally shown or you would not have bought it if you’d known of its problems.
But don’t think you can automatically get money back if your Chrissie present is something you’ve already got, or you just don’t like it. You don’t have a right to a refund if you simply change your mind.
- Myth: No refund on sales items. Not true! You have the same refund rights on discount items as on full-priced items. But you can’t claim for faulty items the shop warned you about such as stains or faulty stitching.
- Myth: You need to buy an extended warranty. The law requires a guarantee which may be just as good as extended warranty.
- Myth: No refund without a receipt. If shoppers have credit card records or warranty card showing date of purchase it is enough under law.
- Reality: You can return a faulty item even if you’ve used it and removed the tags and labels.
- Reality: Gift recipients have the same rights as purchasers but also need proof of purchase.
- Reality: It doesn’t always matter if the warranty has lapsed. Under the law you can expect a product to function throughout its “reasonable” life.
- Reality: When replacing a faulty item, the retailer has to provide goods of the same type or value. If they can’t, consumers are entitled to a repair or refund.
- Reality: You don’t have to return an item in its original packaging, but you will need proof you bought it at that shop.
- Reality: Cooling-off periods only apply to limited types of transactions including door-to-door sales and telemarketing, land and property sales, some motor vehicle deals where the dealer arranges finance. Always read documents you are asked to sign – if you don’t understand it, don’t sign.
- Big Myth: The customer is always right. In reality they can be wrong. It’s far better to know your legal rights as a consumer.