Each year, many shoppers are misled into believing they cannot return a discounted product to a store if it is faulty, merely because the shop keeper displays a sign saying “No refunds on sale items”.
Such signs are illegal and the consumer watchdog can impose hefty fines on a retailer that refuses to accept faulty returned items at their own cost.
Two years ago, a Harvey Norman franchisee was taken to the Federal Court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and forced to pay more than $50,000 for making false or misleading representations regarding consumer guarantee rights.
Some stores are also outside the law if they display signs along the lines of “Exchange or credit note for the return of sale items”.
After inspections revealed that hundreds of stores displayed illegal signs, the ACCC began modernising the Consumer Guarantee Framework in a bid to strengthen shoppers’ rights.
According to the Treasury Department, “under the Australian Consumer Law, when you buy products and services they come with automatic guarantees that they will work and do what you asked for. If you buy something from a shop that isn’t right, you have consumer rights”.
If a retailer refuses to refund money for a faulty product, you can complain to the ACCC.
The Government is considering options to improve the law and wants to hear from consumers who have been refused legitimate refunds. You can write to [email protected] about your experience.
Among the feedback the Government has already received about tightening protections are:
- NSW advocacy group Seniors Rights Service has asked Treasury to expand rights to a refund to items purchased through auctions, including those conducted online.
- Motor vehicle buyer lobbyist Destroy My Jeep wants more regulation to stamp out car retailers who sell ‘lemons’.
- The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network is pushing for the period within which a ‘high value’ product is shown to be faulty to be extended to six months.
If you would like to find out what retailers and other vested interests think about strengthening consumer rights, visit the Treasury consultation site.
Have you ever been denied your right to a refund? Do you think consumer rights need more strengthening given the common place practice of planned obsolescence built into many products we buy? Or, do you think that many small retailers could go out of business if they are forced to pay refunds under certain circumstances.