Faulty warranty information

Australian consumer organisation CHOICE has found that 85 per cent of major electronics retailers give faulty warranty information. CHOICE shadow-shopped at 80 Harvey Norman, The Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi stores across all states and territories in Australia throughout September and October. It found widespread violations of Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

ACL legislation introduced in in 2011 states that consumers have the right to refund, repair or replacement through the retailer for a reasonable time after purchase. The time period in which a good should be of acceptable quality depends on factors such as the type of goods and the price of the item. Guidelines released in 2013 set out exactly what a retailer’s responsibility is when it comes to expensive electronics. The guide can be found here

When CHOICE journalists shadow-shopped in major Australian electronics retailers, however, they found that 85 per cent of sales staff had limited or no understanding of their obligations under the ACL. CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey says of the findings, “The advice given by major electronics retailers flies in the face of the ACL. The fact that 85 per cent of sales staff got it wrong and 100 per cent offered an extended warranty is very concerning. Consumers need to be wary of warranty advice they are given in-store.

“Consumers should not be fooled into purchasing extended warranties they don’t need and we’d like to see the ACCC and fair trading bodies investigate these breaches.”

Journalists posed as customers looking for a big-screen television, valued at around $2500. When they asked salespeople if the store had any responsibility should the television stop working outside the one-year warranty period, the overwhelming response was that repairs and returns would be out of the store’s hands. Under ACL, this answer is false, as customers should expect a refund, even if product care or extended warranty has not been purchased.

When the head offices of Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi were contacted, both companies understood the details of the ACL, despite their salespeople giving incorrect information. The Good Guys declined to comment.

CHOICE also spoke to the ACCC, which confirmed that leading customers to believe they wouldn’t be able to take a pricey television that’s out of warranty back to the store is a breach of consumer law.

Facts you may not know about your right to a refund:

  • If a product is not of acceptable quality a retailer cannot charge you to fix it
  • A retailer cannot just refer you to the manufacturer – it is obliged to resolve your issue
  • If the problem is classed as ‘major’ you can ask for a refund or replacement instead of a repair
  • You don’t have to return a product in its original packaging, and if you have lost the receipt you can instead use a credit card statement which itemises goods, a warranty card showing the date, price and place of purchases or the serial production number if the retailer stores such information.

For more information on your rights, read the original CHOICE report, or visit the Australian Consumer Law website.