Your consumer rights explained

What you need to know to know about returning faulty products under Australian Consumer Law.

Under Australian Consumer Law, the products and services you buy come with guarantees that it is of acceptable quality and fit for purpose. 

But returning a faulty product to a retailer can be a complex task.

Choice Campaign and Policy Advisor Amy Pereira said consumer rights could be confusing to both consumers and retailers. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of exactly what your rights are and what you’re entitled to if something goes wrong,” Ms Pereira said.

Choice has revealed what you need to know to exercise your rights under Australian Consumer Law.

When am I entitled to a refund?

If a product is faulty, you are entitled to either a repair, replacement, or refund. 

“When you purchase a product, that product must meet consumer guarantees under Australian Consumer Law,” Ms Pereira said.

“For example, the item must be fit for purpose and free of any defects. It should match the description on its packaging or on the website you purchased it from.”

If you have a minor problem with a product or service, the retailer can choose to give you a free repair instead of a replacement or refund. 

“If a product that you’ve purchased doesn’t work you have a right to a fair fix,” Ms Pereira said.

“If the problem is minor, the retailer can decide to offer a refund, repair or replacement. 

“However, if you’re facing a major problem, you get to choose between a refund or replacement.” 

What is a major problem or failure?

“A recent addition to the consumer law says that if a product you’ve purchased has two or more minor failures and you wouldn’t have purchased the product if you knew about these failures, it’s considered to have a major failure,” Ms Pereira said.

“This is really important as it means that you have more options when it comes to asking for a repair, refund or replacement. 

“For example, if you face multiple problems with a new car, it’s now much clearer that you should be offered a replacement or a refund.”

Replaced products must be identical to the product originally purchased while refunds should be for the amount you have paid.

Are extended warranties worth it?

Many businesses offer extended warranties to extend the length of the manufacturer’s warranty but Ms Pereira said they may not be worth the extra cost.

“In most cases you really don’t need one,” she said.

“If an item you purchase is faulty, under the consumer law a retailer has to offer you a remedy. 

“It’s also good to know that your right to a remedy will remain in place for a reasonable amount of time after you’ve purchased something, even if the warranty has expired.

“If a company tries to sell you an extended warranty, ask them to explain what that warranty offers above and beyond your rights under the Australian Consumer Law.”

Are “no refund” signs legal?

Ms Pereira said blanket “no refund” signs were unlawful.

“A business can’t opt out of the consumer law,” she said. 

“Signs that say ‘no refund’ or ‘no refund on sales items’ are illegal as they suggest that you aren’t entitled to a refund under any circumstances. 

“The consumer law says that you must be given a remedy for a faulty product.”

However, retailers don’t have to give you a refund or exchange if you change your mind about a purchase so always check the store’s returns policy.

What if the retailer won’t fix my problem?

Ms Pereira said there are options if you cannot resolve an issue with the retailer.

“If you suspect that a retailer isn’t treating you fairly, contact your state or territory’s fair trading agency who can help you get a fair outcome,” she said.

“You can also report issues to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), as they have the power to take action against businesses that breach the consumer law.”  

The ACCC recommends following these steps to escalate at consumer complaint.

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not  intended as  legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal 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.