How many times have you seen a ‘no refund’ sign in a shop?
Of those times, how often would you think to question its accuracy?
If you’re not fully informed, information that is in public places, made by a public figure or someone in a position of authority can seem deceptively plausible.
I’ve never really wanted to go to Japan, simply because I don’t like eating fish and I know that’s very popular out there in Africa.” – Britney Spears
As obviously ridiculous as the above statement is, there are some who would be misled by its inaccuracies simply because it is made by a person in the public eye. But pause your laughter, because each one of us is guilty of being misled by false statements. Particularly if those statements relate to refund policies of Australian businesses.
In Australia, it is against the law for businesses to communicate, either verbally or on a sign, that they do not offer refunds under any circumstances including for gifts and during sales.
Simply because a shop claims that you cannot return an item does not mean that you are not entitled to a store refund.
You are within your rights to ask a business for a free repair, replacement or refund. There are, however, circumstances where you will not be entitled to one. For example, where you change your mind about the purchase, find the product or service cheaper elsewhere or decide that you no longer want the item.
Your purchases, whether a product or a service, come with an automatic guarantee under Australian Consumer law. This is known as a consumer guarantee. The guarantee is designed to protect you and ensure that the product or service you purchase will work and do what you paid for.
If you purchase something that does not work, you can rely on your consumer rights.
Before selling products, a business must ensure that its products are of acceptable quality. This means that the goods must meet the standards that someone would normally expect of that type of product as well as the cost. For example, they must be without fault, safe and last a reasonable period.
A product must also:
- match the description made by a salesperson as well as the description on packaging and labels, promotions or advertising
- match any demonstration model or sample that you asked for
- be fit for the purpose the business told you it would be fit for, as well as any purpose that you communicated to the business before making your purchase
- come with full title and ownership
- not carry any hidden debts or extra charges
- come with undisturbed possession, meaning that no one has a right to take the goods away from you or prevent you from using them
- meet any extra promises made about performance, condition and quality, such as life time guarantees and money back offers
- have spare parts and repair facilities available for a reasonable time after purchase, unless you were told otherwise.
A service must:
- be provided with acceptable care and skill or technical knowledge and take all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage
- be fit for the purpose or provide the results that you and the business agreed to
- be delivered within a reasonable time when there is no agreed end date.
Your consumer guarantees do not apply if you:
- change your mind, find it cheaper somewhere else, decide you do not like the purchase or cannot use it
- misuse a product so as to cause the problem
- know, or were made aware of, the faults before you purchased the product
- request for a service to be performed in a particular way, against the advice of the business, or are unclear about what you want.
When Can You Request A Repair, Replacement Or Refund?
Under Australian consumer law, you have a right to request a refund, a replacement or a repair for products and services. A business can choose to provide you with a free repair rather than a replacement or refund in cases where the product or service has a minor fault or defect. If the problem is major, you have the right to ask for your choice of a replacement or refund.
According to the ACCC, if you experience a major problem with a service, you may choose to receive compensation for the drop in value below the price paid, or a refund.
When Should A Business Offer You A Repair?
For minor problems with a product or service, you are required to accept a repair if offered by the business. If you are not offered a free repair within a reasonable time, or the business cannot fix the problem with the product, you may:
- have the problem fixed somewhere else and pass the costs on to the original business
- request a replacement
- request a refund
- recover compensation for the drop in value below the price paid.
When Can You Request A Replacement And Refund?
You are entitled to request a refund or replacement for products that have major problems. For example, if the heel snaps off your shiny new shoes.
Your replacement must be identical to the product you originally purchased. The refund should also be for the same amount you originally paid and in the same form of your original transaction.
The business may take into account how much time has passed since you bought the product, including:
- the type of product
- how you are likely to use it
- the length of time it is reasonable for the product to be used
- the amount of use it could reasonably be expected to tolerate before breaking.
If the issue concerns a major problem with services, you may cancel the contract and obtain a refund. You may also consider seeking compensation for the drop in value of your services provided compared to the price paid.
How Do You Know If The Problem You Experience With A Product Or Service Is Major?
There are multiple ways that major defects with products or services can be determined.
The ACCC recognises that a product or good has a major problem when:
- knowledge of a problem would have stopped you from purchasing it
- it is not safe
- it is significantly different from the sample or description
- it does not do what you asked for, what the business claims it would do, or it cannot be easily fixed.
A service is considered to have major problems when:
- that problem would have stopped you purchasing that service if you had known about it
- the service is substantially unfit for its purpose and cannot easily be fixed within a reasonable time
- it does not meet the specific purpose you asked for and cannot easily be fixed within a reasonable time
- it creates a dangerous situation.
How To Return A Product
If you wish to return a product it is your responsibility to return it. Sometimes due to the size of the product, it is not practical and will cause you significant costs to return it. In these situations, the business must make arrangements to collect the item and pay for its return and exchange. For example, if the item is a large LCD TV, white good, bed, swimming pool filter connected to a pool by fixed pipes.
In some cases, you can claim compensation, in addition to repair and replacement or refund, for damages or losses you suffer as a result of the defective product. This is usually when the damage was reasonably foreseeable by the supplier.
You do not have to return products in the original packaging to get a refund.
How To Make Your Approach
The retailer who sells you a product or service with a major problem cannot refuse to help you, for example, by sending you to the product’s manufacturer or importer.
If the product does not meet consumer guarantees, you can claim a remedy directly from the manufacturer or importer. For example, where the product does not meet one or more of the following consumer guarantees:
- acceptable quality
- matching description
- any extra promises made about performance, condition and quality
- repairs and spare parts – the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that spare parts and repair facilities are available for a reasonable time after your purchase unless you were told otherwise. What qualifies as a ‘reasonable’ time depends on the type of product.
You are only entitled to recover costs from a manufacturer or importer, which include an amount for reduction in the product’s value and in some cases compensation for damages or loss.
Don’t believe everything you hear or see in print. Always question the status quo.
It is unlawful for businesses to tell you, or show signs, which state that they do not provide refunds under any circumstances, including for gifts and during sales.
Understand your rights as a consumer so that you know what to expect and when to challenge something that does not seem right. There is no expiration date on your rights under the consumer guarantees, which can apply even after any warranties from a business have expired.
What experiences have you had returning items to a store? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
For more information on consumer rights visit: