Under Australian Consumer Law, most products and services bought in Australia (from 1 January 2011) come with an 'automatic consumer guarantee' that the product or service you purchased will work and do what it says it will.
If a product or service does not meet the consumer guarantees, you are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund, you may cancel the service and, in some cases, claim reimbursement for damages and loss.
This page provides information on:
- when am I entitled to a repair, replacement or refund?
- when am I NOT entitled to a repair, replacement or refund?
- replacements and refunds
- reimbursement for damage and loss
- what to do if you have a problem
- advice to be a savvy consumer
When am I entitled to a repair, replacement or refund?
When the product or service you purchased does not meet one or more of the consumer guarantees.
- be of acceptable quality
- 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
- come with full title and ownership
- not carry any hidden debts or extra charges
- meet any extra promises made about performance, condition and quality, such as lifetime guarantees, and money back offers
- have spare parts and repair facilities available for a reasonable time after purchase unless you were told otherwise.
- be provided with acceptable care and skill or technical knowledge
- be fit for purpose or give the results that you and the supplier agreed to
- be delivered within a reasonable time when there is no agreed end date.
Did you know? Gifts you receive are included under Australian Consumer Law, so the goods and services you receive are still protected under the automatic consumer guarantees.
When am I not entitled to a repair, replacement or refund?
Rights to a repair, replacement, refund, cancellation or compensation do not apply to items:
- purely for business use worth more than $40,000 (such as machinery or farming equipment)
- 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 unknown debts or extra charges).
A business can refuse to give you a free repair, replacement or refund if:
- you simply changed your mind
- you misused the product or service in a way that contributed to the problem
- you asked for a service to be done in a certain way against the advice of the business, or were unclear about what you wanted
- a problem with a service was completely outside of the business’ control.
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. You must accept this free repair if the business offers it to you.
If the business fails to give you a free repair within a reasonable time or cannot 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
- recover compensation for the drop in value below the price paid.
"Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that spare parts and repair facilities for products are available for a reasonable time after purchase (unless you were told otherwise). How long is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the type of product."
Under Australian Consumer Law, businesses who repair goods must provide consumers with repair notices when:
- the goods being repaired can retain user-generated data (for example mobile phones, computers, portable music players and other similar electronic goods)
- 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 (refurbished or reconditioned goods are second-hand, they have generally been inspected and had minor repairs or part replacement to return them to full working order).
The consumer must receive the repair notice in writing before the goods are accepted by the business for repair.
Replacements and refunds
When you have a major problem with a product, you have the right to ask for a replacement or refund.
For a major problem with services, you can cancel the contract and get a refund or compensation for the drop in value of the services provided compared to the price paid.
Replaced products must be similar to the original product.
Refunds should be the same amount you paid and given to you in the same form as your original payment.
When processing a replacement or refund, the business can take into account how much time has passed since you bought the product, and consider the following factors:
- the 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.
What is a major problem?
A product has a major problem when:
- it would stop someone from buying it if they’d known about it
- it’s unsafe
- it’s significantly different from the sample or description
- it doesn’t do what the business said it would, or what you asked for and can’t easily be fixed.
A service has a major problem when:
- it would stop someone from buying it if they’d known about it
- it’s substantially unfit for its common purpose and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time
- it does not meet the specific purpose you asked for and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time
- it creates an unsafe situation.
Reimbursement for damage and loss
You can ask for reimbursement for damages and losses you suffer if the supplier could have reasonably anticipated the problem. This is in addition to a repair, replacement or refund.
What is covered?
Reimbursement should put you in the position you would have been in if the products or services had done what they are supposed to under consumer guarantees. This is usually a financial cost, but can also include lost time or productivity.
See an example
A consumer took their curtains to a dry cleaner to be dry cleaned. When they went to pick up their curtains, they were badly damaged. The consumer is entitled to a remedy for the defective service (a refund for the dry cleaning fee) but also have the dry cleaner pay for the loss incurred. This could include the dry cleaner paying to replace the curtains.
What is not covered?
Businesses don’t have to pay for damages or losses that:
- are not caused by their conduct, or their products
- relate to something independent of their business, after the goods left their control.
How to make a claim for reimbursement
To make a claim for reimbursement for damages and loss:
- Work out the amount of money you would need to return you to the financial position you were in before the problem occurred.
- Contact the business (verbally or in writing) to explain the problem and present your claim for reimbursement. You may also want to ask for a refund or replacement.
- Show proof of purchase with a receipt or bank statement.
If the supplier refuses to discuss reimbursement or you cannot negotiate an agreement with them, you can seek formal dispute resolution or take legal action. See below for more information.
Have a problem?
Be a savvy consumer
Proof of transaction
Under Australian Consumer Law, businesses must provide consumers with proof of transaction (also known as proof of purchase) for goods or services valued at $75 or more. Businesses are also required to provide a receipt for any transaction under $75 within seven days if the consumer asks for one. Learn more on our Receipts page.
No refund sign
A sign in a store that says 'no refunds' is illegal because it implies you won’t get an appropriate remedy even if the goods you bought have a major problem. Other examples of illegal signs are:
- 'No refund on sale items'
- 'No refund after seven days'
- 'Exchange or credit note only for return of sale items'.
Your rights under the consumer guarantees do not have a specific expiry date and can apply even after any warranties you’ve received from a business have expired.
Signs that state 'No refund for incorrect choice' or 'No refund if you change your mind' are legal.
Returning a product
You are entitled to return a product if you believe there is a problem.
You are generally responsible for returning the product if it can be posted or easily returned.
It is your responsibility to return the goods, unless this would involve a significant cost. If the cost to the consumer would be significant, the supplier must collect the product at their own expense and within a reasonable time.
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.
Chargeback is a refund facility available from credit card providers.
You may be able to request a chargeback from your credit card provider when goods or services have been ordered but not been provided, yet you’ve been charged. A time limit may apply for the use of this facility.
For further information regarding chargeback, consumers should contact their credit card provider.
Uncollected goods are items that were left with a business for repair or other treatment (with or without payment). When goods haven’t been collected for a period of time, the business is to follow specific disposal and notification procedures outlined in the Uncollected Goods Act 1995.
See uncollected goods for more information.