Warranty expired? Item broken? It’s not over yet!

People waiting to check their warranty

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” goes the old saying, albeit in a grammatically poor way. If it is broken, though, fixing it can be a good way to go.

Even better can be getting it fixed (whatever ‘it’ happens to be) by the manufacturer, especially if it’s under warranty.

But if an item is not under warranty, that doesn’t necessarily absolve its manufacturer from the responsibility of repairing it. And this matter is the subject of a new media release from the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC last year received more than 28,000 reports and inquiries regarding consumer guarantees or warranties. As a result, it is encouraging Aussies to take advantage of their consumer guarantee rights under Australian Consumer Law.

When dealing with businesses over defective products or poorly performed services, promises made through warranty don’t necessarily limit liability. ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe reminded Australians of their rights in last week’s release.

“When you buy a product or service from a business, you have automatic rights called consumer guarantees,” Ms Lowe said.

These form part of the Australian Consumer Law, “and they exist regardless of any warranty offered by the business”, she said.

Many Australians are not aware that Australian laws provide a warranty of sorts, above and beyond some offered by businesses. “Even if a manufacturer’s warranty has expired, you may still be able to use your consumer guarantee rights.”

Rights don’t necessarily expire when your warranty does

Under the Australian Consumer Law, those rights do not have a specific expiry date, Ms Lowe stated. “Consumer guarantees apply for a period of time that is considered reasonable, having regard to the nature of the products or services including the price paid,” she continued.

In many cases, this will be longer than the period of any warranty provided by a retailer or manufacturer.

Software giant Apple is one company whose website specifically mentions the rights of Aussies under Australian Consumer Law. Apple has in the past come under fire from customers alleging their warranty rights were not honoured. The ACCC has also previously used its clout to take legal action against the tech behemoth.

With many consumers purchasing or receiving new products and services over the Christmas period, the ACCC’s January reminder is timely. It may also serve as a reminder of products purchased or received in Christmases past. These may still be subject to consumer law, even if they’re now more than two years old.

“Broadly speaking, you are guaranteed that the product you have purchased will be of acceptable quality,” said Ms Lowe. It must also match its description and do what a business tells you it can do.

“If it doesn’t,” said Ms Lowe, “you are entitled to a free repair for a minor problem, or a replacement or refund for anything major.”

“It is written …”

The ACCC also took the opportunity to point out warranty statements that are not necessarily true under Australian Consumer Law. One example is: “Your product is out of warranty, so we can only repair it for a fee”. Another is: “No refunds under any circumstances.”

This isn’t right, says the ACCC. Consumer guarantees are automatic and are separate from any voluntary warranty, manufacturer’s warranty, or extended warranty. Consumer rights can last longer than warranty rights, and you can ask for a repair, refund or replacement after the warranty has expired.

Were you aware your warranty rights can extend beyond those provided by businesses? Have you had any difficult experiences in trying to exercise those rights? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Platforms must step up on scam ads, says consumer advocate

Written by Andrew Gigacz

Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.

One Comment

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  1. It’s not quite as simple as no warranty, no worries. An increasing number of companies especially in the building and services (eg solar) fields go into liquidation every two years with the particular intent of avoiding warranty responsibility. I have just had an expensive building job completed when the company owner told me he was closing up shop. I haven’t paid a cent until I know what his warranty arrangements are.

    The sales staff of most companies have no idea of their company’s obligations beyond the twelve months warranty period and very few executives will admit to it.

    One camera company I argued with and won asked “how do you know what a reasonable life period of time is?” I said put a label on a $2000 camera saying ‘this camera has a limited 3 year life’s and see how many you’d sell! That would tell you.

    Warranties are for the reducing number of honest companies which will honour them and unless buyers are a lot smarter and persistent they will only be guarantee to miss out.

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