Don't get caught out

Know your rights with refunds and exchanges.

If you regret grabbing an item in the Boxing Day sales or are planning on exchanging an unwanted present from a distant relative, it pays to know your rights when it comes to refunds and exchanges.

Acting Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Dr Anthony Lynham said under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) you’re covered for faulty products or services, but not for a change of mind.

“Under the ACL you are automatically covered by a number of consumer guarantees,” Dr Lynham said.

“These include acceptable quality, acceptable appearance and finish, no defects and the product must be safe and durable, as well as fit for purpose.

“If a product or service you buy in Australia fails one of these consumer guarantees, you may be entitled to some kind of remedy.

“They must also match the description, sample or demonstration model and comply with any extra promises the seller makes, such as what you can use the goods for.”

Dr Lynham said if there was a minor problem with a product or service, the business could choose to give the consumer a free repair instead of a replacement or refund.

“If you have a major problem with a product, you have the right to ask for your choice of a replacement or refund,” he said.

“However, if you change your mind, don’t like a gift you were given or the problem is caused by misusing the product, you are not entitled to a remedy.”

Dr Lynham said many stores offer refunds and exchanges for changes of mind for a certain time period as a gesture of goodwill.

If you believe you are entitled to a refund or remedy, the Office of Fair Trading recommends approaching the business to try to resolve the issue then, if the matter isn’t resolved, lodge a complaint at or by calling 13 74 68.

Exchange and refund tips

  • Retailers aren’t legally obliged to exchange or refund items if you change your mind and different retailers may have different policies around exchanges.
  • Keep your receipts to helps streamline the return or exchange process.
  • If a product is faulty, damaged or dangerous you may be entitled to a refund, replacement or repair. 
  • You don’t need to have the original packaging if the item is faulty.
  • ‘No refunds on sale items’ signs are illegal – consumers still have rights whether an item is on sale or not.

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person’s particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.