Shop signs refusing refunds are illegal

Retailers can’t refuse refunds, no matter how many signs to the contrary they show.

How to get your money back

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 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.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    19th Sep 2018
    Buy a faulty caravan and see how far your warranty goes.
    Old Geezer
    19th Sep 2018
    I have nothing but praise for the people I bought my caravan off. They went way beyond their warranty and stall help even though it's now out of warranty. Stop reading that lemon caravan Facebook site as it's full of rubbish. According to them I not only have a lemon caravan but I also tow it with a lemon vehicle. If they are lemons then I simply love lemons.
    19th Sep 2018
    Now I am confused. Very recently I went into the local "The Reject Shop" and asked about returning some octopus straps because they had very little or no elasticity in them. One of the employees said that since I had bought them in February 2018 there was no refund to be pad BECAUSE "The Reject Shop" has a policy of only refunding money within 28 days of purchase.
    I asked a young woman in Big W at Orange about refunds (I didn't have any) and she said that there was a STORE policy of roughly the same time period.

    What is the truth of all this and no I chucked the octopus straps and Big W have always been goo about refunds. A former employee told me that and he was right. Can you help me please? What is the truth in regard to refunds?
    19th Sep 2018
    Basically it is a matter of fit for purpose. Then add on a reasonable timeframe. Regardless of what a warranty says, if the item is not fit for purpose and the timeframe is not reasonable then you should be able to get a refund. Essentially how long would a reasonable person expect the item to last. So if your straps are only 6 months old and with normal use would be expected to last longer than 6 months then you would have a case to take to the state consumer tribunal.

    Stores like Big W have a very generous returns policy - i.e. no questions asked. That is quite separate to consumer law. And just for good measure, a store policy cannot remove your consumer rights. The thing for you to decide is, is the financial loss (the slack straps) worth the fight through Consumer tribunal? For a couple of dollars, I'd say probably not.
    21st Sep 2018
    So who was your caravan manufacturer
    OG. You must realise that not every sales agent or builder has the same sense of responsibility that yours luckily did.

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