Know your consumer rights

A survey from consumer advocate CHOICE has found that 54 per cent of Australians are confident in using the Australian Consumer Law, but that leaves 46 per cent who aren’t confident. Which group are you in?

The survey findings come as the non-profit group celebrates 60 years of consumer advocacy – and we’re not just talking about its invaluable assistance in helping us make informed decisions on household purchases through rigorous appliance reviews.

CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland explains: “When a group of volunteers came together to form CHOICE 60 years ago, there was no Australian Consumer Law. It was very much a case of buyer beware. If something went wrong, it fell to you to fight it out with a business.

 “Today, thanks to campaigning by groups such as CHOICE, the community has more rights and it’s great to see that a majority of Australians feel comfortable using them.

“It’s great to see in the survey results that Australians are even more confident on specifics – asking for refunds, managing their energy and water usage and negotiating prices.”

 “That doesn’t mean our job is done. With 46 per cent of the population not feeling confident asserting their rights, we’ve still got plenty of work to do.”

To help people who feel less confident in their consumer rights, CHOICE has released its 2020 Consumer Rights Guide.

1. Play the market
CHOICE consumer advocate Jonathan Brown says: “Too many businesses take advantage of our loyalty. If you’ve been with any company for a while now, call them up and ask for a better deal. You’d be surprised how much you can save with a couple of phone calls.”

2. Keep records
“Your consumer rights should be easy to use, but the reality is that good record keeping makes it a lot easier,” Mr Brown says. “The great thing in 2020 is that mobile apps and email programs make it easier than ever to take a quick photo or make a short note you can search for later.”

3. Know your rights
“Different companies might need different approaches,” says Mr Brown. I’ve seen companies play legal games for months or years over a consumer issue, only to fold the moment you say you’ll go public. Whereas some companies respond to formality, others will respond to an authority like a regulator. The key is to know what your rights are, to be assertive and confident.”

4. Use your voice
“Over 60 years CHOICE has campaigned with Australians for better consumer rights. We need to work together more than ever to make sure the products and services we buy are safe and fair.”

5. Beat the tricks
“Simple initiatives such as the do not knock sign and do not call register can make a big difference, especially for Australians who are vulnerable to pressure sales and sneaky tactics. Help sign up your friends and family members now.”

Are you confident that you know your consumer rights? Has your knowledge helped you win any battles?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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