01.What you need to know
Retailers are getting rid of ink printers and replacing them with faster, less expensive thermal ones. To print a thermal receipt, a heated stylus passes over thermal paper, which is coated in a chemical that darkens when heated. Unfortunately, the chemical layer remains active after the receipt is produced, so it is sensitive to light, heat, friction, abrasives and plastics and can fade or darken quickly.
In this article, we reveal:
Fortunately, a faded receipt is not necessarily the death knell to tax records or warranty periods. If a receipt is faded beyond recognition (or if you’ve lost your original receipt), there are other ways of providing proof of purchase. According to NSW Fair Trading, credit card or debit card statements, handwritten receipts, lay-by agreements, or a confirmation or receipt number provided for a telephone or internet transaction are all considered proof of transaction.
While under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), businesses must provide consumers with a proof of transaction for goods or services valued at $75 or more (or for a less expensive purchase by request), there’s nothing in the legislation that specifies how that receipt should be printed. Several departments of fair trading or consumer affairs around Australia told CHOICE that as the ACL isn’t specific about receipt requirements, there’s no legal onus for a receipt to be remain legible after the initial sale.
“There’s nothing in legislation that prevents retailers from providing receipts that may fade,” says Grant Rasmussen, manager of investigations at the Queensland Office of Fair Trading. “We were hopeful there would be advances in the quality of thermal paper so that receipts last longer, but I don’t think we’re seeing those advances as yet. The retailers are aware of our concerns.”
Correct storage is vital in order to keep thermal receipts legible. They shouldn’t be kept in plastic sleeves, and should be stored away from heat and light. But sometimes there’s not much to be done to prevent the decay.
Ultimately, the best way of ensuring you don’t have an issue with fading receipts is to make a copy of them. While photocopies should suffice as proof of purchase according to consumer rights experts CHOICE spoke with, we’ve heard of some stores (contrary to Australian Consumer Law) refusing to honour them. For these cases, the original receipt stapled to the copy and/or a complaint to the ACCC should work better.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, the ACCC Shopper app enables you to take photos of your receipts and store them. It also features information about consumer rights and reminders for dates when gift cards expire, and provides information on country of origin labelling. Other departments of fair trading and consumer affairs have released their own versions of the app, including NSW Fair Trading’s ShopSmart, Queensland’s BuySmartQld and Victoria’s MyShopRights.
To check whether you have a thermal receipt, scratch a blank part with a fingernail and look for a tell-tale black mark.