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Electronics retailers denying consumer rights

CHOICE says 48% of the electronic retailers shadow shopped failed the consumer law test

11 December 2015

A shadow shop of 109 Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and the Good Guys stores across the country by consumer advocacy group CHOICE has found nearly half of the salespeople contacted didn't understand basic rights to a refund for faulty products.

"Although it's almost five years after the introduction of Australian Consumer Law, which provides consumers with the right to a repair, replacement or a refund, salespeople at some of the country's biggest retailers are potentially misleading consumers," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.   

CHOICE's shadow shoppers posed as customers looking to buy a big-screen TV priced between $2000 and $3000 and asked if the store would take the TV back to get it repaired if it broke down around two years after purchase.

"We found 48% of the retailers contacted failed to offer our shoppers their basic consumer rights, which is a staggering failure rate so long after these consumer protections were introduced in Australia," says Mr Godfrey.

"Under the Australian Consumer Law you can return a faulty TV to the store or contact the manufacturer for a reasonable period after the manufacturer's warranty has expired.

"Even though the TVs our shoppers were looking to purchase come with a one-year manufacturer's warranty, the Consumer Law gives you rights over and above the limited warranty period.

"As the peak retail season ramps up, it's time electronics retailers got up to speed with this basic consumer right. Consumer guarantees are not limited to a set period of time. They last for the amount of time reasonable to expect the product to last depending on factors such as the nature and price of the item purchased.

"The salespeople should have agreed to take the TV back and assess on a case-by-case basis whether or not it would be covered.

The most common failures by the salespeople were telling our shoppers:

  • They couldn't go to the retailer, only to the manufacturer
  • The TV would not be covered as the manufacturer's warranty or the voluntary warranty period is expired
  • The store would accept the TV but any repairs would be at the shopper's expense
  • They would only be covered if they purchased an extended warranty

"We also found that 95% of the salespeople tried to sell an extended warranty to our shoppers. So if you're tempted by an extended warranty, it's worth reading the fine print to ensure you are getting some value over and above the rights you have under the Consumer Law," Mr Godfrey says.

CHOICE has referred six Harvey Norman stores to the ACCC.

Top ten consumer rights tips:

  1. "No refund" signs are against the law
  2. If a product isn't of acceptable quality, the retailer can't charge you to fix it
  3. Retailers can't just refer you to the manufacturer
  4. If the fault is "major", you can ask for a refund or replacement rather than a repair
  5. Retailers should pay the transportation cost for bulky items
  6. You should be informed if a replacement is secondhand or if refurbished parts have been used
  7. Repairs must be made within a reasonable time
  8. You don't have to return a faulty product in its original packaging
  9. If you've lost a receipt you can still show proof of purchase with a credit card statement, confirmation or receipt number from an Internet or phone transaction
  10. Extended warranties are often not necessary as they may not cover much more than the Australian Consumer Law

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