You have the right to a repair, refund or replacement if goods or services bought in Australia do not meet one or more consumer guarantees. Guarantees apply to both major and minor problems.
You can claim a remedy from the retailer if the products do not meet one or more of the consumer guarantees, with the exception of availability of spare parts and repair facilities. The retailer cannot refuse to help you by sending you to the manufacturer or importer. You can approach the manufacturer or importer directly, however, you cannot demand that a manufacturer or importer provide you with a repair, replacement or refund. You are only entitled to recover costs from them, which includes an amount for reduction in the product’s value and in some cases compensation for damages or loss.
You can claim a remedy directly from the manufacturer or importer if the goods do not meet one or more of the following consumer guarantees:
- acceptable quality
- matching description
- any extra promises made about such things like performance, condition and quality
- repairs and spare parts.
The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that spare parts and repair facilities are available for a reasonable time after purchase unless you were told otherwise. How long is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the type of product.
You can claim a remedy from the supplier if the services don’t meet any of the consumer guarantees in relation to services. Remedies include cancelling a service and in some cases compensation for damages and loss.
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.
Under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses who repair goods must provide consumers with repair notices 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
- it’s the repairer’s practice to supply refurbished goods rather than repair defective goods, or to use refurbished parts in the repair of defective goods.
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 a service, you can choose to receive compensation for the drop in value below the price paid, or a refund.
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. The business can 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 get a refund or compensation for the drop in value of your services provided compared to the price paid.
What is a major problem?
A product or good 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 cannot easily be fixed within a reasonable time
- it creates an unsafe situation.
Returning the product
You are 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.
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 signs
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 7 days' or '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.
Rights to a repair, replacement, refund, cancellation or compensation do not apply to items:
- worth more than $40,000 purely for business use, 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).
Go to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) website for information on your rights when things go wrong with products or services bought before 1 January 2011.
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.