Purchasing a pet is a tough decision involving careful consideration. Not only is buying a pet an emotional decision for the consumer, it can also involve spending a significant amount of money. So far this year, the number of enquires regarding pet purchases received by Consumer Protection has been higher than usual (the number of enquiries in both January and February 2011 more than doubled on December 2010). Common issues among the complaints received are animals being sold with worms or illnesses such as parvo virus, both of which can be fatal if not treated in time. There are also issues surrounding pedigree puppies and inherited disorders which become apparent only after purchase.
Because of this, Consumer Protection has identified the importance of educating both consumers and suppliers of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to pets. Essentially, under consumer protection laws, a transaction involving a pet has the same protections as a transaction involving any other type of consumer good. However, often the supply and purchase of a pet is not as straight forward as there are other factors involved, such as a consumer’s emotional attachment to their new pet, which may stop some consumers seeking the remedy they are entitled to.
A new publication on the issues involved in purchasing pets has now been developed by Consumer
Protection in conjunction with the Animal Welfare Branch of the Department of Local Government. Input was also sought from the Australian Veterinary Association and RSPCA Western Australia.
The brochure will be circulated to vet clinics and pet shops around Western Australia and recommends that consumers do their research and ask a number of key questions before they buy. The publication also outlines the most important provisions of the new Australian Consumer Law (ACL) as they apply to the purchase of pets, namely the consumer guarantees of acceptable quality, fit for purpose, accurate description and matching any description and ‘sample’ given or shown.
Purchases made before 1 January 2011 still have a number of key protections but those bought through a once-off private sale are not covered under the ACL. In an industry where there are a lot of “fringe” suppliers, some of the issues that needed to be resolved included the status of pet shelters as suppliers and what constitutes a professional “breeder”. It was noted that the nature of an individual transaction needs to be considered in determining whether or not a purchase is covered by the ACL; namely, whether or not the pet was supplied in the course of trade or commerce or any business or professional activity, whether or not carried on for profit.
The new brochure also explains that if a supplier fails to meet one or more of the consumer guarantees, the consumer may have rights against the supplier. The remedy that a supplier needs to provide in such a situation will depend on the whether the problem can be classified as major or minor.
In all its publications, Consumer Protection recommends that if there is a problem with a purchase, the consumer and supplier should attempt to negotiate an outcome that both parties can agree to. If there continues to be a disagreement, Consumer Protection can provide advice and help resolve the dispute. If you would like to distribute copies of the pet brochure, or if you require further information on the ACL, please call 1300 30 40 54