Dealing with dodgy and faulty goods

girl with early tvHow do you know when your purchase has failed to make the grade?

When you buy a product in Australia our consumer law makes it clear that your purchase must be of acceptable quality.  And by that the law means that your purchase must be:
♦ Safe, lasting, and have no faults.
♦ Look acceptable.
♦ Do all the things a reasonable customer would normally expect them to do.

Acceptable quality takes into account what would normally be expected for the type of product and cost. So don’t expect something bought from a $2 shop to have the same quality or meet the same standards as something bought from a fancy retailer.
The Products you’ve just spent your hard earned money on must also:

♦ Match descriptions made by the salesperson, on packaging and labels, and in promotions or advertising
♦ Match any demonstration model or sample you asked for
♦ Be fit for the purpose the business told you it would be fit for and for any purpose that you made known to the business before purchasing
♦ Come with full title and ownership
♦ Not carry any hidden debts or extra charges
♦ Come with undisturbed possession, so no one has a right to take the goods away or prevent you from using them
♦ Meet any extra promises made about performance, condition and quality, such as life time guarantees and money back offers
♦ Have spare parts and repair facilities available for a reasonable time after purchase unless you were told otherwise  (Here anything less than 3 months would be not very fair)

What can you get when things go wrong?

You can claim a remedy from the retailer if the products do not meet any one or more of the consumer guarantees, which include getting a repair, replacement, or refund. In some cases, where the product you bought has created a real disaster, like a faulty toaster that causes a fire in your kitchen, you may be entitled to compensation for any damage or loss.

The retailer can’t ignore you or refuse to help you by sending you on some wild goose chase to the manufacturer or importer of the product you bought from them. The retailer must deal with it.

But there is a catch when the consumer guarantee won’t apply.
For example, if you:
♦ Got what you asked for but changed your mind, found it cheaper elsewhere or decided you didn’t like it
♦ Misused a product in any way that caused the problem
♦ Knew of or were made aware of the faults before you bought the product
♦ Asked for a service to be done in a certain way against the advice of the business, or were unclear about what you wanted

Also your right to repairs, replacements, and refunds don’t apply when your purchase is:
◊ Worth more than $40 000 and not for personal or household use
◊ Something you plan to on-sell or change so that you can re-supply as a business
◊ Bought as a one-off from a private seller, for example at a garage sale or fete (but you still have rights to full title, undisturbed possession and no responsibility for unknown debts or extra charges)
◊ Bought at auction where the auctioneer acted as an agent for the owner (but you do have rights to full title, undisturbed possession and no responsibility for unknown debts or extra charges).

If you’re worried about approaching a retailer directly and would prefer to write to them HERE is a good outline of what you should put in your letter.

Which one do you get…repair, replacement or refund?

If you have a minor problem with a product or service, the business can choose to give you a free repair instead of a replacement or refund. When you have a major problem with a product, you have the right to ask for your choice of a replacement or refund.

woman repairingRepairs

If the problem with a product is minor, you must accept a free repair if the business offers you one.
If the business fails to give you a free repair within a reasonable time or can’t or won’t fix your problem, you can:
Get it done elsewhere and pass on the costs to the business
♦ Ask for a replacement
♦ Ask for a refund

Repair notices
Where businesses do accept goods for repair they must provide you with a repair notice when:

  • The goods being repaired are capable of retaining user-generated data, for example, mobile phones, computers, portable music players and other similar electronic goods OR
  • It is the repairer’s practice to supply refurbished goods rather than repair defective goods, or to use refurbished parts in the repair of defective goods.

And you must receive the repair notice in writing before your faulty purchase is accepted by the business for repair.

Replacements and refunds

You can ask for a replacement or refund if the problem with the product is major.
Replaced products must be of an identical type to the product originally supplied. Refunds should be the same amount you have already paid, provided in the same form as your original payment.

The business may take into account how much time has passed since you bought the product considering the following factors:

  • type of product
  • how a consumer is likely to use the product
  • the length of time for which it is reasonable for the product to be used
  • the amount of use it could reasonably be expected to tolerate before the failure becomes noticeable.

For a major problem with services you can cancel the contract and obtain a refund or seek compensation for the drop in value of your services provided compared to the price paid.

Returning the product

You are also entitled to return a product if you believe that there is a problem. You are generally responsible for returning the product if it can be posted or easily returned. You are entitled to recover reasonable postage or transportation costs from the business if the product is confirmed to have a problem, so keep your receipts. However speak to the supplier or retailer before you embark on this as they may have set up ways for customers to return faulty or poorly presented products.

When a product is too large, too heavy or too difficult to remove, the business is responsible for paying the shipping costs or collecting the product within a reasonable time of being notified of the problem. Examples include large televisions, beds, lawnmowers or any product that has been subsequently installed, like a stove or a dishwasher.

You do not have to return products in the original packaging in order to get a refund.

If the product is found not to have a problem, you may be required to pay the transport or inspection costs. An estimate of these costs should be provided to you before the product is collected, and the costs must not be inflated in an attempt to deter you from pursuing your claims.

“No refund” store signs or notices on receipts

It is against the law for businesses to tell you or show signs or give receipts that state they don’t give refunds under any circumstances, including for gifts and during sales.
Your rights under the consumer guarantees do not have a specific expiry date and can apply even after any warranties provided by a business have expired.

If all else fails – use your rights

How to make a consumer complaint