Part of the inevitable aftermath of the annual Christmas and Boxing Day sales spend-fest is the increase in the number of requests for returns, replacements and refunds.
That snazzy electronic gadget may not have actually worked when plugged in, pieces from the grandkid’s Lego kit were missing or that dress you purchased in an online sale didn’t quite match its description when you tried it on.
It’s worth knowing your rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) on refunds at this time of the year, because retailers can inadvertently (or deliberately) mislead shoppers, particularly in the online retail space.
According to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), misleading representations regarding online refunds and returns are one of the most complained about issues reported to the ACCC.
“Already this year, the ACCC has received over 24,000 contacts about consumers guarantees so it is important for us warn the retail sector and educate consumers as we enter the busiest shopping period of the year,” the ACCC’s statement noted.
Having received over 750 complaints regarding consumer guarantees for clothing purchases alone this year, the ACCC pre-empted the busy holiday shopping period last month, by reviewing the policies of some of Australia’s largest clothing retailers.
This follows the case of clothing retailer Lululemon in July, who the ACCC fined $32,400 for alleged false or misleading claims about consumer guarantee rights.
“If customers are looking to return faulty goods…the ACL gives them the right to choose between a refund or replacement if a product they have purchased has a major fault, even for sale and clearance items,” said the ACCC’s deputy chair, Dr Michael Schaper.
“If a product has a minor fault, retailers can choose to provide a free repair instead of a refund or replacement.”
Dr Shaper stressed that the ACCC would take action if a retailer is not fulfilling its legal obligations under consumer law.
Just this week, the ACCC announced that it had worked with consumer electronics manufacturer Belkin, to resolve some of its questionable claims around lifetime warranties.
“Belkin has acknowledged that its lifetime warranty representations may have breached the Australian Consumer Law, which prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct and false or misleading representations about the effect of a warranty or guarantee,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said.
She added that if manufacturers claim to offer lifetime warranties, they must be very clear about what this means to their customers.
The ACCC makes it clear that you have rights if you buy or receive faulty products, whether you bought them on sale or not.
“Retailers cannot refuse to give you a refund, repair or replacement because you bought the item on sale or at a clearance store unless they brought the fault to your attention before you bought the item,” said the ACCC.
Additionally, retailers who use signs stating “No refunds” or “No refunds or exchanges on sale items” are breaching the ACL. These signs do not change your rights under consumer law or stop them from applying.
However, if you buy something and change your mind about it, retailers do not have to give you a refund or exchange.