Consumer guarantees: refunds, returns and regrets

Consumer guarantees: refunds, returns and regrets

Some say there are only two guarantees in life: death and taxes. In actual fact, there’s a third: consumer guarantees.

These guarantees apply to any item or service purchased after January 1 2011 in any Australian state or territory. They guarantee, for instance, that the item will do what it’s supposed to do; last a reasonable amount of time; and that it matches the description provided by a salesperson; packaging, labelling; or advertising. So if you’ve bought something faulty or inappropriate, it’s not necessarily money down the drain.

Here’s a few things you should know if you’re unhappy with a purchase.

So you’ve changed your mind

We’ve all done it: bought something and then had second thoughts after taking it home (the colour doesn’t match; someone else bought a similar present; or worse: there’s a cheaper one elsewhere).

This is a ‘change of mind’ return and the retailer is under no obligation to refund your money or exchange the item.

If they do allow ‘change of mind’ returns they may place a time limit on it. That could be seven, 14, or 30 days. They may choose to give you a credit note rather than a refund. If you bought something full price and then it goes on sale, you must have a receipt otherwise you could be refunded the discounted price.

Store receipt focusing on return policy on red background.

Something is faulty or doesn’t do what it should

Here the law makes a distinction between a major and a minor fault. It is considered a major fault if the item is unsafe; doesn’t do the job it is supposed to do; is different from the description; or you wouldn’t have bought it if you knew about the problem. For instance, a washing machine that stops working after a year.

If your item has a major fault you get to choose whether you prefer a refund, replacement, or to have the item repaired.

If you decide on a refund, the retailer must give it to you at the same price and in the same form as you paid for it. They cannot offer you a credit note.

If you opt for a replacement, the replacement must be of the same type and value as the original item.

If the problem is minor and can be fixed reasonably quickly, the retailer gets to decide whether to fix the problem, give you a refund, or replace the item. This must be provided for free.

Another thing worth knowing: if you’ve told a salesperson that an item needs to suit a specific purpose and it doesn’t meet that requirement, you have the right to ask for a refund. So perhaps you’ve said you are looking for paint for an outdoor table and the salesperson directs you to a paint that peels after a couple of months because it’s not meant for outdoor use, you are entitled to ask for a refund.

Digital LCD TV with a Blueish Distorted Picture on Screen and a Background Clipping Path

You want to return a faulty item you bought on sale

You may have seen “No refunds on sale items” or “No refunds” signs displayed by retailers. They are misleading.

Here’s why: unless an item is clearly marked as a ‘second’ or that it is discounted because of defects that were pointed out when you bought it, your rights to a refund, repair or replacement of a broken or faulty item still stand.

When you’re managing a tight budget, it is important to shop around for value before you buy. Equally, knowing your rights after you’ve purchases something can save you from having to folk out for a replacement or repair.

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