We’ve all seen the signs in shops that say “no refunds or exchanges”, but is that true?  What is the law in relation to returning or exchanging goods?

The consumer laws in Australia are now generally uniform across all states and are governed by the Australian Consumer Law.

That law provides that there are certain consumer guarantees that apply when goods are purchased by an individual from a business.

If any of these guarantees are not met, then the consumer can seek:

(a)          A refund;

(b)          Repair;

(c)           Replacement; or

(d)          Compensation, if the product has diminished in value.

Those nine guarantees are as follows:

  1. Acceptable quality

The business guarantees that the goods will be of acceptable quality.  That is, the goods are fit for all usual purposes, look acceptable in appearance, have no defects, are safe and are durable.

  1. Fit for a specific purpose

If a consumer goes looking for a specific product and tells the sales person how that consumer wants to use the goods, and the consumer then relies upon the sales person’s knowledge or advice when deciding if the goods will suit that consumer’s needs, then the business guarantees that the product will indeed by suitable for that specific purpose. Remember that this is in addition to any usual purpose of the goods, which are already the subject of the above guarantee that the goods are of acceptable quality.

  1. Accurate description

The seller guarantees that the description of the goods is accurate.  If, for example, an iPad is described as a white iPad but instead the customer receives a black one, then they are entitled to one of the remedies outlined above.

  1. Samples or demonstration models

The seller guarantees that the goods will match any sample or demonstration model which is specifically shown to a consumer.

  1. Spare parts and repairs

It is important to stress that this guarantee only applies for a reasonable time after the goods are sold.  Generally speaking, a manufacturer or importer of goods (note that it’s not necessarily the seller) guarantees that reasonable steps will be taken to provide spare parts and repair facilities for goods.

  1. Extra promises or warranties made by the business

In addition to all of the above consumer guarantees, if a business makes a further promise about any of the characteristics of the goods, then this is an additional consumer guarantee which the seller must honour.

  1. Ownership

It is a basic right that the purchaser of goods has clear title to those goods.  This means that the seller guarantees that the buyer will have clear title to the goods.

  1. Undisturbed possession

The seller guarantees that no third party will try and take the goods back from the buyer, prevent the buyer from using the goods, or limit how the consumer wants to use the goods.

  1. No hidden debts

The seller guarantees to the buyer that the goods are not the subject of any hidden security or charge from a third party.

“This is one of the busiest shopping periods of the year, so it’s important people remember they have rights if they’ve received a Christmas present or purchased an item during the Boxing Day sales that later fails,” ACCC Acting Chair Roger Featherston has previously commented.

“If you received a gift that you don’t like, or changed your mind about something you bought at the Boxing Day sales, consumer guarantee rights don’t apply, but some retailers may let you exchange gifts for another item,” Mr Featherston said.

WGC Lawyers