The beauty and cosmetic industry provides many services and products designed to help us look and feel good. The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and health legislation provides a legal framework for the operation of the beauty and cosmetic industry in Australia. If you are looking to buy a beauty treatment or cosmetic procedure, it is important you understand and exercise your consumer rights. As a business operator selling beauty or cosmetic products or services, it is equally important that you ensure the rights of consumers are maintained, and that you comply with relevant safety standards.
Cosmetic procedures and treatments can be complicated and may pose significant risks to your health and well-being. Choosing to have one is a significant decision that should not be made without thorough research into the procedure, the facility, the provider and every aspect of the health risks involved. Before committing to a cosmetic procedure, NSW Fair Trading and NSW Health recommend you undertake the following research as a minimum:
- seek advice from a health practitioner such as your GP about any health or infection risks that may be involved before deciding to proceed
- ask about the qualifications, training and experience of the person who will perform the procedure or treatment. If they claim to be a nurse or doctor you should check with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) at www.ahpra.gov.au and confirm that they are registered in Australia
- check that the facility is clean and hygienic. Depending on the type of procedure being provided the premises may need to be registered with the local council or licenced as a private health facility by NSW Health. Private health facilities must display a copy of their licence. Visit the NSW Health website or call them on 9391 9000 for concerns
- check that the provider is complying with any applicable Codes of Conduct. For example, unregistered health practitioners providing cosmetic health services must comply with a code of conduct which can be found here. Registered health practitioners may need to comply with a professional code of conduct, which is regulated by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). Find more information on the code of conduct on their website
- once you have quotes for the desired service, keep in mind that dramatically cheaper estimates could indicate that the products are counterfeit or non-registered Australian medicines
- download our useful checklist to assist your decision-making.
The ‘great deals’
Be aware of special offers, promotions and verbal promises when shopping for beauty and cosmetic products and treatments. Some deals may not be as good as they seem once you read the fine print. Cheap prices may indicate that the procedure or treatment is being performed by unqualified staff, or that products are counterfeit, or are not approved for use in Australia. Before buying a ‘deal’, carefully read the terms and conditions to avoid hidden costs. Don’t let the offer of a ‘great deal’ persuade you to pay for something that you might not have otherwise bought.
If you purchase a gift card or voucher from a cosmetic and beauty service provider check if there are any special conditions. Most gift cards and vouchers sold in NSW should come with a minimum expiry period of 3 years.
Visit the Group buying and daily deals page for more information.
Sales pitches and the hard sell
Be aware that offers for ‘free’ consultations and makeovers can lead to pressure to purchase products that you might not want. It is illegal for salespeople to prevent you from leaving their premises, or to coerce you in any way into purchasing a product or service. While extreme salespeople are in the minority, the use of high-pressure, bullying sales tactics may be more common and include:
- implying your appearance or health will suffer without their products or services
- asking you a series of questions where the answers are obviously ‘yes’ thereby making you feel you need the product
- praising a product for its amazing yet unrealistic benefits
- trying to get your sympathy by claiming that they are one sale short of winning a prize, or will lose their job if they do not meet their quota
- claiming you have wasted their time and money if you listened to their spiel but then said you didn’t want the product
- offering a discount if you sign the contract or buy the product on the day.
False and misleading advertising
Advertising must portray a truthful impression of the beauty and cosmetic procedure and its results. It is illegal for a business to:
- make misleading or deceptive claims about a product or service
- advertise products or services with false endorsements
- claim benefits that the product or service does not have
- make false representations about the standard, quality or value of the service offered.
Paying for services
Before you make a purchase, find out:
- whether the salon has a refund policy
- how much the total is for the service, including any hidden costs
- how much notice you need to give in case you need to cancel a treatment
- the preferred method of payment and if there is a hidden cost if you pay another way
- whether you’ll be provided with a receipt
- whether there is a cooling-off period if you sign up for the deal, or what happens if you change your mind.
Always read carefully the terms and conditions of any contract and check for hidden costs. Be wary of pre-payment or providing credit card details upfront in case you need to cancel or change your mind.
Under the ACL, most products and services bought in Australia come with automatic guarantees that the items will work as advertised.
Businesses must provide these automatic guarantees regardless of any other warranties associated with the sale. If a business fails to deliver any of these guarantees, they are obliged to:
- repair, replace or refund
- accept cancellation of a service
- provide compensation for damages and loss
- provide products and services of acceptable quality that are safe and not defective.
Read more here
Buying online can be a simple and affordable way to purchase products that sound great, however the lack of regulation on cosmetic goods and devices manufactured overseas can pose a serious risk to your health and beauty.
While medicines and medical devices bought instore are generally subject to regulation by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), be aware that cosmetic beauty products bought online from overseas may not be subject to TGA regulation. These items may have a high chance of:
- being counterfeit
- containing the wrong amount of active ingredient
- being contaminated with toxic chemicals
- containing undisclosed or dangerous ingredients
- being past their use-by-date.
Counterfeit medicines or medical devices are goods that are imitated to appear as genuine items. Counterfeit items are considered as such if they are falsely manufactured, packaged or advertised. While they may be cheaper, these medicines or medical devices may not work and could be harmful. If you believe you have purchased a counterfeit product, you may want to seek professional medical advice.
When doing your research on a cosmetic or beauty service provider, it is a good idea to ask about the products being used, particularly if the brand name is unfamiliar to you. It is the cosmetic and beauty service provider’s responsibility under the ACL to guarantee that all products are compliant for use in Australia. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) also regulates cosmetic products that make therapeutic claims. You can find further information on the TGA website.
Read more about buying goods online on our website.
If you are having problems
If you experience any medical complications after a cosmetic procedure, seek medical advice straight away.
If you are not satisfied with the service that you have received or how you have been treated, the first step is to talk directly with the service provider. Be clear, firm and polite and state what the problem is and how you would like it fixed. Make sure you put all your concerns in writing and keep all relevant documents such as signed contracts, receipts and quotes.
If you don’t reach a satisfactory outcome, contact NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20.
As a beauty and cosmetic provider, your consumers have rights and it is your obligation to fulfil them. You must:
- not pressure consumers into making purchases of goods and services
- comply with any applicable Codes of Conduct. For example, unregistered health practitioners providing cosmetic health services must comply with the Code of Conduct for unregistered health practitioners specified in the Public Health Act. Registered health practitioners providing health services may need to comply with a professional code of conduct, you can find more information on this on the HCCC website
- provide accurate information about your qualifications, training and experience in performing the procedure. If you are a registered health practitioner, you can direct consumers to verify your qualifications on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) website
- understand if your premises need to be registered with the local council or licensed by NSW Health. If so, you must display a copy of the licence in clear sight. You should confirm your licencing requirements by visiting the NSW Health website or calling them on 9391 9000.
When advertising your cosmetic and beauty business, it is illegal to:
- make misleading or deceptive claims about your products or services
- advertise products or services with false endorsements
- claim benefits that a product or service simply does not have
- make false representations about the standard, quality or value of the product or service offered
- make misleading representations that can persuade customers to buy something to their detriment, based on belief in the testimonial.
Representing services clearly
Businesses have a responsibility to ensure that beauty and cosmetic products and services are genuine, are not banned, do not breach Australia’s safety standards and are lawfully able to be supplied in Australia.
You must not make false or misleading statements about:
- the standard, quality, value or grade of products or services
- the sponsorship, approval, performance characteristics, accessories, benefits and uses of products or services
- testimonials by any person relating to products or services
- the price of products or services
- a buyer’s need for products or services
- any guarantee, warranty or condition of the products or services
- the requirement to pay for any guarantee, warranty or condition on the products or services.
Read more about misleading representations here.
No refund policies
Under the ACL, you are only obliged to provide a refund if a product is faulty or a cosmetic service does not meet the advertised description.
Therefore it is acceptable to present your business with signs similar to ‘No refunds will be given if you have simply changed your mind’.
However, you cannot display signage such as: ‘No refunds on sale items’ or ‘Exchange or credit note only for the return of sale items’, as this is a misrepresentation of the law.
In Australia, business owners or operators could be prosecuted for breaching the ACL and/or mandatory safety standards, including selling unsafe products and services or products which have been temporarily or permanently banned.
Under the ACL making false or misleading representations is an offence. The maximum fine is $220,000 for an individual and $1.1 million for corporations.
Read more about fines and penalties
Need more information?
NSW Health publishes fact sheets about hygiene and cleanliness standards for beauty salons and spas in English and in other languages from their website.
The TGA is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods including medicines, medical devices, blood and blood products. TGA is also responsible for regulating the supply, import, export manufacturing and advertising of therapeutic good.
Additional resources in English and in other community languages:
- Know your rights before you consider a beauty treatment or cosmetic procedure checklist (PDF, 57.21 KB)
- Are you thinking of a makeover! Think it over Postcard (PDF, 305.99 KB)