Rights to a refund at Christmas

What can you do if your Christmas gift turns out to be a dud?

Can I take it back?

Christmas is a time of giving and while it's the thought that counts, what happens if a gift turns out to be a dud? 

It's worth refreshing your memory on your rights to a refund.

Luckily, the Australian Consumer Law provides a range of consumer protections against dud products. 

In this article:

Can I get a refund for a faulty product?

If you buy or receive a gift that doesn't do what it's supposed to or isn't of acceptable quality, you can take it back to the retailer and ask for a remedy, such as a repair, replacement or refund.

Consumer guarantees apply whether or not you bought a product on sale, so don't be put off by 'no refunds' signs. (They're illegal anyway.)

But whether or not you can get a refund depends on whether the fault is major or minor.

Join our campaign to improve your refund rights

Tips for getting a refund for a faulty product

Know your rights

Do your research on the Australian Consumer Law before you go back to the store. See our comprehensive guide to your consumer rights for all the details.

Bring backup

Go into the store armed with the relevant information from the Australian Consumer Law. (Our article on what to do with a faulty product is a great resource.) If you have the information on hand, you can whip it out at the first sign of a retailer trying to shirk their obligations.

Know what you need and what you don't

If an item is faulty, you don't need to return it in its original packaging (despite what retailers might try to tell you). You don't throw your refund rights away with the box. 

You don't necessarily need a receipt, either – proof of purchase is enough. 

Don't let them fob you off

Don't let retailers fob you off to the manufacturer – they need to offer you a remedy if they sold you a faulty product.

Ask for the manager

Casual staff may not have a thorough grasp of the Australian Consumer Law. If you're having trouble getting a refund for a faulty product, ask to speak to someone more senior.

Know how to complain

If you're not getting anywhere, it's time to complain. 

Check out our articles on making complaints for advice on where to go.

Can I get a refund if I've changed my mind?

Retailers aren't obliged to give you a refund just because you've changed your mind. 

Many retailers do offer change-of-mind returns, but make sure you check their policies before you buy. 

Find out:

  • If I change my mind, can I get a full refund? Or do I only get store credit or an exchange?
  • How long after I've bought the product can I return it?
  • Does it need to be in the original packaging?
  • What proof of purchase do I need if I want to return an item?

There is a major failure with a product when:

  • you wouldn't have purchased it had you known about the problem
  • it's significantly different from the description, sample or demonstration you were shown
  • it's substantially unfit for its normal purpose
  • it's unsafe.

For products with major failures you can decide whether you want a refund or an identical replacement.

Minor failures include small problems with products that don't fit into the major failure categories (for example, loose threads on clothing).

For items with minor failures the seller may choose to offer you a refund, replacement or repair. This must be provided free of charge and within a reasonable time period. 

If it is a minor failure you can't immediately reject the goods and demand a refund; you must give the supplier a chance to fix the problem.

Not necessarily – although you'll need some sort of proof of purchase. 

You can use the following as proof of purchase:

  • the receipt (if the gift giver still has it)
  • a credit card statement that itemises the goods
  • a confirmation or receipt number from a phone or internet transaction
  • a warranty card showing the date, price and place of purchase
  • the serial or production number if it's stored on the retailer's computer.

This depends on whether the product is faulty or if it's a change-of-mind return.

  • For faulty products, you don't need to return the product in its original packaging.
  • For change-of-mind returns, you may need to return the product in its original packaging because the retailer may want to re-sell it. If there's a chance you'll change your mind, keep the original packaging and any tags, plus proof of purchase.

Even if the warranty period has passed, you may still be entitled to a remedy if a product doesn't live up to expectations. 

Regardless of lapsed warranties, the ACL's consumer guarantees require a product to be of "acceptable quality" throughout its reasonable life.

This length of time can be determined by the court; however, it may often be longer than the warranty period, especially in the case of an expensive product such as electronics or whitegoods.

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