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Refund rights unboxed

In store, in-app or online through overseas websites Aussie shoppers have rights

26 December 2014

Whether you are purchasing gifts at a local store or clicking through a checkout online or in-app, CHOICE is reminding shoppers they are protected by the same Australian Consumer Law.¹

This means all shoppers are entitled to a refund, replacement or have the product repaired if it is faulty, doesn’t do the job it is supposed to do or does not match the advertised description.² 

“It’s not uncommon to be greeted by a no refund sign when seeking to return a faulty product but the advice is simply – ignore it and insist on your right to a refund, replacement or repair,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“Don’t let the retailer pass the buck, even if the item is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty the retailer can’t duck their responsibility - if they sold you the faulty product they have to honour your right to a refund, replacement or repair.” 

“If you received a gift that is broken or does not work as it is meant to you have the same rights as if you had purchase the product yourself.”

“It’s also important to remember the same person who purchased the product doesn’t have to be the one to return it. You just need proof of purchase such as a receipt, or even the retailer’s swing tag.” 

The Australian Consumer Law also prohibits both online and bricks and mortar retailers from misleading or deceiving shoppers about where a product is made or how much it costs.

CHOICE says people shopping in the post-Christmas sales should not be put off by a ‘no refund’ sign that may appear on sale items. 

“These signs are illegal. Unless a product is clearly marked as a ‘second’ or is discounted due to defects that were made clear at the time of purchase, your rights to a refund, repair or replacement of a broken or faulty item still stands,” says Mr Godfrey.

In some circumstances, retailers are not obliged to offer a refund. If you change your mind about the colour or if it doesn’t fit, the store isn’t compelled to give you your money back or exchange the item. 

“It pays to do your homework, especially for the post-Christmas sales. A bargain isn’t a bargain if, once you get home, you realise what you bought is not what you wanted,” says Mr Godfrey.

“If you are buying a big ticket item, research the specifications before you buy, make sure you get the right model number, the features you want and work out what you are prepared to pay. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the sales and buy things on the spur of the moment without doing your homework.” 

CHOICE’s tips when it comes to refunds or exchanges:
  • You don’t need the original packaging but you do need proof of purchase, such as a receipt, credit card statement or swing tag. Take the product back to the store or return it to the online retailer as soon as possible.
  • If the item you purchased from an online website is faulty, the on-line retailer should pay for the cost of posting the item back.
  • If you received a gift that was faulty you can ask for the refund in cash even if the person who bought the gift purchased it by credit card – you don’t have to accept a store voucher just because someone else paid for it on their card.
  • Don’t let the store brush you off by saying you have to deal with the manufacturer – the store where you bought the item must sort the problem out for you.
  • Check the store’s refund or exchange policy before you buy the item. Some larger stores may give you a credit note or offer an exchange even if you change your mind.
  • If you think you are entitled to a refund but the retailer still refuses to give you one, contact the Office of Fair Trading in your state or territory.
  • For more information about refunds, returns and repairs visit consumer rights and advice 

 ¹ Contained in a schedule to the Competition and Consumer Act, 2010.

² If it’s a ‘major failure’, you can choose whether you receive a refund, replacement or the product is repaired. A ‘major failure’ includes being unsafe, doesn’t do the job it is supposed to do, different from the description or you wouldn’t have bought it if you knew about the problem. If the product has a minor problem and can be fixed reasonably quickly, then the retailer can decide whether to fix the problem, give you a refund or replace the product.

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