Returning faulty goods

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Suppliers and manufacturers automatically provide guarantees about goods they sell, under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). These guarantees are rights that exist regardless of any extra warranty provided by the supplier or manufacturer.

Sometimes, when goods don’t work or do what they should, or are not what you asked for, the supplier may need to examine them in order to figure out what the problem is and what should be done.

Initial cost of returning faulty goods

Goods do not need to be in their original packaging to be returned. You may, however, need to ensure the goods are adequately protected for posting or collection. If you aren’t able to take the goods to the supplier in person, and the supplier does not have a complimentary pick up or return policy, you may have to return them by post or another delivery service.

As a general rule, if the item can be posted or easily returned, you should cover the initial cost of returning faulty goods to the supplier. You should keep the receipts for those costs because if the returned goods are later confirmed to have a fault – whether major or minor – you can recover your reasonable postage or transportation costs from the seller.

When goods with a major fault are too large, too heavy or too difficult to remove, or because of the very nature of the fault (e.g. the fault has made the goods too dangerous or fragile to deal with without expensive expert assistance) the seller becomes responsible for the initial cost of returning the goods.

The seller needs to pay the necessary shipping costs (or otherwise collect) the goods within a reasonable time of being notified that you have rejected the goods. Examples of goods too large or heavy to return without significant cost would include:

  • a wide screen TV
  • a bed
  • an extension ladder stuck in the extended position
  • a product that has been subsequently installed, like a stove or a dishwasher.

Tips for avoiding disputes

Before goods are returned, the seller should provide clear advice of any transport or inspection costs that apply if the item is not faulty. This will enable you to choose whether you wish to go ahead with that method of returning the goods.

Failing to disclose these costs may be misleading or deceptive conduct, in breach of the ACL, especially where it denies you the opportunity to choose whether you wish to go ahead with returning the goods.

Sellers cannot inflate costs in an attempt to deter you from pursuing your claims. To do so may also be misleading, deceptive or even unconscionable conduct, in breach of the ACL.

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