On 1 January 2011, a new national Australian Consumer Law regime came into effect. Please see our article or go to http://www.accc.gov.au/consumerrights for information on these changes.
In a nutshell
- Goods for sale should be of merchantable quality, fit for their purpose, free from defects and matching their description. Otherwise, you’re entitled to your money back.
- Consumers are entitled to cash refunds for faulty or defective goods. If you simply change your mind about a product, retailers are not obliged to give refunds, but some may.
- In instances where tradespersons, professionals and other service providers fail to provide a reasonable standard of service, consumers are also entitled to refunds.
- Cooling-off periods can protect consumers in door-to-door sales deals.
- Taking extra precautions lessens the risks of internet shopping.
Please note: this information was current as of October 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Key consumer guarantees
All goods for sale must meet basic standards. If they don’t, you’re legally entitled to seek a refund, repair, replacement or compensation. Goods must be:
Of merchantable quality. This means the goods should meet a basic level of quality and continue working for a reasonable time, bearing in mind their price and the way the goods were described.For example, you could reasonably expect a $2,000 watch to last longer than a $100 one. Or you could reasonably expect a TV to last for more than a year – if a fault developed soon after a year you would still be protected by your implied warranty rights – the manufacturer would probably be obligated to repair it free of charge.
Fit for the purpose. This means the product should do the job you were led to believe it would do. In some cases this is pretty obvious; a watch might look great on your wrist but it must also tell the time. Other cases are less self-evident, but a product must always meet the requirements you told the seller you wanted it for, or the purposes the product is advertised for.
Match the description or sample on which your buying decision was made – this includes information given in advertising, demonstrations, labelling, promotions and by the salesperson.
Have no defects. Goods should be free from faults which affect their merchantable quality, unless you should have known about the defect before you made the purchase (for example, with ‘seconds’). For instance, if you were aware that stitching on an item of clothing was torn before you bought it (the price may have been reduced for that reason), you can’t give this as a reason for entitlement to a refund.