Unsolicited goods

Unsolicited supplies are any goods or services that are supplied to someone who hasn’t agreed to purchase or receive them. It’s an offence to demand payment for goods or services if you’ve not ordered them or to bill you for an advertisement you never authorised.

Can businesses provide unsolicited goods or services?

Businesses often provide goods or services to consumers as a way of exposing them to the brand. Examples of this are free product samples sent in the mail, or door knocking households and offering to clean their windows as part of a free product demonstration. There’s no expectation that the consumer will have to pay for the goods or services. It’s an offence for businesses to demand payment for unsolicited goods or services.

Businesses must not issue an invoice for unsolicited goods or services supplied unless the invoice contains the required warning statement:

“This is not a bill. You are not required to pay any money”.

This warning statement must be the most prominent text on the document. In the event of a dispute, the business operator would need to prove they have a legitimate right to demand the payment.

If businesses do provide unsolicited goods or services

When businesses provide unsolicited or goods, the recipient doesn’t have to pay for the goods or services. The business is entitled to recover the goods within three months - this is known as the recovery period. If the recipient tells the business in writing that they do not want the goods, then the recovery period is reduced to one month. The recipient cannot unreasonably refuse to allow the supplier to collect the goods during the recovery period.

The recipient may be liable to pay compensation if they damage the goods during the recovery period.

If the unsolicited goods have not been collected within the recovery period the recipient can keep the goods without any obligation to pay. If the goods were clearly not for the recipient - the packaging was addressed to another person - than they cannot keep the goods.

Recipients are not liable for any loss or damage resulting from a supply of unsolicited services. For example, a consumer arranges for a car repairer to replace the muffler. When she returns to collect the car the repairer says the tyres and brake pads also needed replacing, so he made the replacements and added an extra $1,200 to the bill. The work done in addition to replacing the muffler would be considered unsolicited and the consumer is not liable to make any payment for this. If the repairer had phoned the consumer for authorisation to replace the tyres and brake pads and the consumer agreed, then those components wouldn’t be unsolicited.

If a business is billed for an advertisement they did not authorise

The ACL prohibits requesting payment for unauthorised entries or advertisements in publications.

If a person or business is invoiced for an unauthorised publication, that invoice must include the required warning statement:

“This is not a bill. You are not required to pay any money”.

This warning statement must be the most prominent text on the invoice.

The business must give written (and signed) authority before payment can be requested.

The authorisation document must specify:

  • the details of the entry/ad.
  • name and address of the publisher.
  • charges that will apply.

The person demanding payment would need to prove that the placing of the entry or advertisement had been authorised if a dispute arises.

A business must not send unsolicited credit or debit cards

An issuer must not send unsolicited debit cards or credit cards, including store-branded credit cards and store account cards, to a person unless:

  • the person has requested in writing the card, or
  • the card is a replacement, renewal or substitution for a previous card and used for the same purpose.

Under the ACL, an item is considered to be a credit card if it is intended to be used to obtain cash, goods or services on credit. An item is considered to be a debit card if it is intended to be used to access an account held by the consumer for the purpose of withdrawing or depositing cash or obtaining goods or services.

Got to the Regulatory Guide 201 from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for more information about unsolicited credit and debit cards.

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