Use your consumer rights to avoid post-Christmas disappointment

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ConsumerBusiness / company
  • Consumer guarantees kick in if gift is faulty, unsafe or not as advertised
  • ‘Change of mind’ not covered by the law, subject to the store’s returns policy
  • Redeem gift cards as soon as possible in case retailer goes out of business

WA consumers are being reminded about their rights should Christmas joy turn to disappointment when gifts end up being faulty, unsafe or not as described.

In these circumstances, under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), stores must offer a refund, replacement or repair and this is regardless of whether the item was on sale. Proof of purchase such as a receipt or credit card statement from the gift giver will generally be required.

Consumer guarantees within the ACL require that products bought from Australian-based retailers, including those trading online, are free from defects, fit for their intended purpose, match the description in any advertising and are safe.

However, Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe warns these safeguards won’t apply to ‘change of mind’ situations.

“For example, if the item is the wrong size or you don’t like the colour, the store is not legally obliged to offer a remedy, so consumers are at the mercy of their individual returns policy. The same applies if you want to exchange the gift for something else,” Mr Newcombe said.

“Another issue that may arise this year are delivery delays. Consumers may be entitled to a remedy if their product fails to turn up in time for Christmas, so we suggest contacting the business to resolve the issue in the first instance before lodging a complaint with Consumer Protection.”

Gift cards are always a popular Christmas gift but the expiry date has been an issue in the past. Now the law states that expiry dates must be a minimum of three-years, with the exception of a few special types of cards and vouchers.

“We recommend that consumers redeem gift cards in full as soon as possible as there is always the risk that the retailer may go out of business before the gift card is used,” the Commissioner said.

“Sometimes gift cards are put in a drawer and forgotten about which effectively becomes a gift for the retailer. A recent survey indicated that the potential value of unused gift cards could amount to a massive $1.8 billion, so we don’t want consumers to be left out of pocket.

“Safety is another consideration, especially if the gift is for a young child. Small toys can pose a choking hazard and, if the toy contains button batteries, make sure that they are secured in a compartment that can’t easily be opened, even if dropped.”

If post-Christmas consumer issues can’t be resolved with the retailer, lodge a formal complaint on the Consumer Protection website. Enquiries can be made by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

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Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / cpmedia@dmirs.wa.gov.au  

Consumer Protection
Media release
22 Dec 2022

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