Need to make a complaint? Here’s how to ensure you’ll get what you paid for, every time

How many times have you want to get a refund or tried and been turned away? We can often feel like

How many times have you want to get a refund or tried and been turned away? We can often feel like our complaint falls on deaf ears, but even if you don’t like to ask for a refund, you always deserve your money’s worth; every penny counts these days so it’s definitely worthwhile to speak up.

Thankfully, Australia has tough consumer laws that protect everyday Aussies from being ripped-off and out of pocket.

These are the essential tips to get what you paid for, every time.



Did you know that displaying a ‘no refunds’ sign against the law in Australia? If your item is of unsatisfactory quality, is not as described, is not fit for purpose, or does not last for a reasonable amount of time, you are always entitled to a refund.

Online shopping

You have even more rights if you buy goods online – in fact you are able to send most faulty goods back within 2 weeks of receipt for a full refund (though you may be liable for return delivery so check with the store you bought it from).


Make sure you check a product’s compatibility with your current hardware, i.e. keyboards for a Mac computer or speakers for your TV, as this will not fall under the ‘as described’ refund rule. Note: if you asked if it would work with your existing model and were advised it did but it actually does not, you are entitled to a refund.

Pricing errors

Some people think if there’s incorrect pricing on a product, you can have it for that price, i.e. a vacuum is priced at $19 (bargain!) but is really $99 and all other stock is $99, the shop does not have to sell it to you for $19. Unless the store is being deliberately deceptive, they don’t have to legally honour the lower price.

Change of mind

You’ve realised you’ve bought the wrong colour or size and want to exchange it. Most stores will honour this if you haven’t worn it/it’s been a short amount of time/the label and receipt are intact, though they do not legally have to.


These are tricky because it all depends on the product and the initial warranty period given. Most consumers don’t realise that they do not have to purchase an extended warranty – the majority of high-value products come with lifetime warranties and it can be against the law for a manufacturer to deny you a replacement if the product is genuinely faulty (under certain conditions). If the item is wilfully damaged or wasn’t taken care of, there’s a slim chance anything can be done about it, but if your laptop breaks just after the 12-month standard term from no user error, it’s worth checking with the manufacturer and the ACCC.

No receipt

So much of Australian consumer law seems to depend on having proof of purchase. But what can you do when that proof has vanished like invisible ink? Thankfully, a faded receipt is not necessarily the end. Even a lost receipt can be worked around.

There are a number of other ways you can provide proof of purchase, including:

  • A bank or credit card statement
  • A hand-written version of the same records
  • A photograph or photocopy of the original receipt (this is the single best way to work around the problem, as it can be done in seconds with a smartphone or tablet)
  • A loyalty card record (if you used Fly Buys or Woolworths Rewards, for example, they should have a transaction record on file)
  • A confirmation number (particularly useful for internet or online transactions)
  • Lay-by agreement records

Many retailers will be able to reprint the original receipt if given enough information about the date, time and nature of the purchase.


Customer service i.e. wait times, misunderstandings, cold or unpleasant food, or the way you were treated

We’ve all been there:

  • there’s hardly any staff on and the shop’s packed.
  • You always order the same meal but this time it’s completely wrong.
  • You were treated rudely and unenthusiastically in your favourite restaurant.
  • You can’t wait to try a new menu item, take a bite and it’s cold or tastes horrible.

All of these scenarios are unpleasant and can really make or break your experience and can feel like a waste of money. We all make mistakes but when it’s your last few dollars, it shouldn’t be brushed off!

How to complain and get the desired outcome

Simply ask to speak to the manager or go to the service desk and explain the situation calmly* and be armed with a receipt. Remember to tell them exactly what you’re expecting otherwise you could end up disappointed again –refund, exchange, compensation, or apology or a combination of these. If you don’t want to feel the same way again or have someone else get the same experience, some constructive feedback is the only way a restaurant or business can improve.

Nine times out of ten the manager should help you on the spot but if you don’t get the assistance you need, you can refer it to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) who can attempt to resolve the issue on their end.

TIP: *Try not to get angry, especially if it was a misunderstanding or an accident, as this lets the business have a chance to rectify the issue for you quickly – name-calling and using aggression will only delay this process!

Quick tips

1. Always have a receipt, especially for expensive products. Create a folder and make it a habit to pop any dockets in there
2. Write a letter if it’s serious
3. Don’t be afraid to seek assistant or counsel
4. Get what you paid for

Have you ever had bad service that was rectified by a company? Share your stories below.

  1. This highlights that money saving schemes are not always to the benefit of the community and are a good reason to argue with governments.

  2. Had a very good experience with Harvey Norman, Bundall. 10/10 for customer service!!

  3. And if you know you are within your rights to demand a refund, do NOT settle for less. Some businesses will try to avoid their responsibilities like this; if you stand up to them and continue to demand, politely, what you’re entitled to, they should back down. Also, if you are being ignored by staff, make yourself more visible. Their embarrassment is the small satisfaction you can gain when you don’t let yourself be passed by. ^_^

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