Consumer law provides protection for Western Australians
It has been more than five years since the Australian Consumer Law commenced (1 January 2011) but our interaction with the WA community frequently highlights that some people are not aware of the automatic legal rights consumers have when buying goods and services.
When you buy a product or service from a business you are entitled to ‘consumer guarantees’ that your purchase is:
- of acceptable quality (without defects, safe and durable)
- fit for intended purpose (meets claims made and does what it is supposed to)
- accurately described and matching any samples or demonstration shown.
If you buy something and a ‘consumer guarantee’ is not met you are entitled to have the problem fixed. It doesn’t matter if the shop displayed a sign saying ‘no returns or refunds’ or whether the store has a policy not to take items like jewellery or lingerie back for hygiene reasons. Faulty goods can ALWAYS be taken back. How the matter is resolved will depend on whether the fault is major or minor.
When the fault is major, such as a new car being blue when you ordered red, you are entitled to a remedy of your choice out of a repair, replacement or refund. If the fault is minor, such as a button falling off a new shirt, the business can choose whether to fix the fault, give you an exchange or your money back.
You do not have to return faulty goods in their original packaging so long as you can produce proof of purchase; a receipt, bank statement showing the transaction, or something identifiable on the product, such as a brand stamp, proving it could only have come from that business.
Importantly, when it comes to products, it’s the seller that you go to for help. If a manufacturer needs to be contacted, the business you paid should contact the manufacturer on your behalf. For example if you bought a fridge freezer from a white goods shop and the freezer compartment isn’t working, it’s the retailer who your sales contract is with and they need to arrange your remedy. They shouldn’t fob you off to whoever makes the fridge freezer.
Australian consumer purchases need to last a reasonable amount of time. This will depend on the type of product or service and how much it costs. We should not expect the same quality, performance and use life out of vastly different things. A $2 child’s toy should not be expected to last years but a $2,000 washing machine’s belt should not burn out after 6 months.
In addition to your ‘consumer guarantee’ rights, spare parts and repairs should be available for a reasonable amount of time after purchase, unless specified at the time of purchase (this might be via a reduced price sign that says “discontinued model, parts not readily available”).
Any extra promises made over and above your free legal protections, such as a “5 year manufacturer’s warranty” or “lifetime guarantee” must be honoured.
In saying all of this, as a consumer you need to use products as per the instructions and choose the right size or type carefully because when you are at fault you don’t have the right to a repair, replacement or refund.
A business may offer an exchange or money back policy in situations where you picked the wrong item or changed your mind but this is a goodwill gesture of their choosing and not a legal requirement.
It’s handy to have consumer law information at your fingertips when you’re out shopping, so we recommend downloading Consumer Protection’s free app ‘iShopWA’ on to your smart phone or tablet.
There is also a ‘repair, replace, refund?’ tool on our website: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/cp to help you work out what you are entitled to.
If you need further assistance you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 30 40 54 during office hours.
July 2020: Please note the iShopWA app is no longer supported. Consumer Protection recommends the ACCC Shopper app, which offers similar functionality and is available in both the App Store and Google Play.
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