Competition, consumer and trade practices

Consumer confidential: the most common questions consumers ask

Consumer Confidential: The Most Common Questions Consumers Ask

As a consumer it can be hard to know precisely what your rights are when it seems that every shop has a different policy, especially when it comes to refunds. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common questions consumers ask so that next time you go to the shops, you’re armed with the correct information.

1. When can I get a refund?

If you find that there is a problem with goods you have bought, the store will likely have to provide a refund, replace the item or repair the issue. The type of remedy available depends on the problem and item itself.

2. If the item I bought is faulty, can I return it and get a refund?

You are entitled to return faulty items because consumer legislation requires goods and services be of an acceptable quality.

An item is faulty if:

>  It doesn’t do what it’s supposed to when functioning normally. Eg. the kettle doesn’t boil water.

>  It has a defect. Eg. the hands of the clock I bought fell off when I took it out of its box.

>  It’s unsafe. Eg. sparks fly out of the toaster.

>  It isn’t durable. Eg. my washing machine stopped working after two months

You are not entitled to return an item if:

>  The store informed you about hidden defects before you bought the item

>  You examined the item before purchasing and didn’t notice defects you should’ve clearly seen

>  You used the item in an abnormal way

>  You have used the item repeatedly over a long period of time

3. I only found out the item was faulty after I used it. Can I get a refund?

You can return a faulty item even after you have:

>  Worn or used it

>  Removed the tags or label

>  Removed it from it’s original packaging

Eg. You bought a pair of jeans and wore them a few times but the dye ran the time you washed them, despite following the care instructions on the label.

4. I changed my mind after taking the item home. Can I get a refund?

The store isn’t required to refund your money simply because you have changed your mind. However, some stores have their own in-store policies allowing refunds, exchanges or store credits for instances where the customer has changed their mind.

5. I lost my receipt. Can I still get a refund?

If you don’t have the receipt, you will need to prove the item was purchased from that particular store. You can provide:

>  a credit card statement

>  proof of a lay-by agreement

>  a receipt number from an online purchase.

6. I received it as a gift but it’s not my style. Can I return it?

Consumers who received an item as a gift have the same refund rights as those customers who bought the item directly themselves. As such you can only return the item if you have proof of purchase. If it’s not too awkward, ask for the receipt, otherwise, the store may be willing to offer you a credit, especially if the item is obviously from their store.

7. I bought the item on sale. Can I get a refund?

Even if you bought the items on sale, you still have the same rights as you would on full-priced items. Did you know it’s actually illegal to display a sign stating “No Refunds on Sale Items”?

However, as with full-priced items, you can’t claim a refund for defects the store informed you of, or those you should’ve clearly noticed when checking the item. Eg. a tag on a dress saying “reduced: small tear”.

Items that are considered ‘On Sale’ include:

>  discounted items

>  samples or seconds

>  bought from a factory outlet

8. I purchased the item online. Is it still possible to get a refund?

Buying online can be tricky when it comes to refunds especially if the seller is based overseas. If you bought from an Australian online business, you have the same refund rights as if you purchased the item in-store. This may not be the case if you are buying from a private seller, for example on ebay. Then it will depend on the conditions of sale specific to that seller.

9. I purchased an item but it doesn’t match the description. What can I do?

It is a requirement that an item matches the description given, for example on the packaging or in an advertisement. If the item differs so much from the description to the extent you wouldn’t have bought it, you are entitled to a refund.

For example, you purchase a pair of boots described as ‘genuine leather’ but discover them to made from a synthetic material. You would qualify for a full refund.

10. I purchased an item based on a sample I was shown but the item I received didn’t match. Am I entitled to a refund?

When you buy an item based on a sample or a demonstration model, it is a requirement that it matches what you have been shown. If the item you receive is so different that you wouldn’t have in fact bought it, then you are entitled to a refund.

For example, you ordered a lounge based on the fabric sample you were shown, but you received an item that differed in coloured.

11. I purchased an item because the salesperson assured me it could do x but it doesn’t. Can I return it?

Yes. You can return an item if it doesn’t do what the salesperson told you it would.

For example, you bought a camera based on the fact the salesperson said you could use it when diving but when underwater, it failed to work.

12. The item I bought doesn’t do what I specifically asked for it to do. Can I get a refund?

You are entitled to return an item which doesn’t do a specific job or achieve a specific purpose if:

>  Before you purchased the item, you spoke to the salesperson and told them precisely what you needed the item to do

>  You relied upon the salesperson’s advice when choosing the item.

For example, when purchasing a car, you specifically told the salesperson you needed it to be able to tow your boat. They assured you the model they sold you could but upon reading the manual later, it specifically stated it couldn’t safely do the job.

13. I purchased an item second-hand. Does this change my rights?

It depends on where you bought the item.

If you bought the item from a store, you have the same rights on second-hand purchases as you do for new items. However, you must take into account the item’s age, price and condition at the time of purchase.

If you bought the item from a private seller, for example on ebay or at a garage sale, the seller is under no obligation to refund, replace or repair the item.

14. Which remedy can I get? A refund, a replacement or just have it repaired?

It depends on both what the item is and what the problem is.

If the problem is major and can’t be fixed or having it repaired would take too long, as the consumer you can choose to:

>  Return the item and request a refund or a replacement

>  Keep the item and receive compensation for the decrease in its value.

If the problem is minor and is able to be fixed within a reasonable time, you must give the store the chance to fix the problem. The seller will have the choice whether to offer you a refund, a replacement or to simply repair the item. If they choose to repair it, it is their responsibility to return the item to, and deal with the manufacturer.

If the store takes too long or simply refuses to fix the problem, as a consumer you can:

>  Return the item and demand a refund or replacement

>  Have a third party repair the item and demand the store pay reasonable costs.

As consumers, we enter into agreements every day so it’s important you know your rights and what you can and can’t expect from the sellers.

For more information visit the Australian Consumer Law website.