Guarantees and the ACCC

Fully defined statutory guarantees apply to all products and services sold in Australia. While there are nine specific rights regarding goods and three regarding service, the essential rules with relation to guarantees are as follows:

  • Goods must be of acceptable quality (taking account of their price and nature) and fit for the purpose they were designed for.
  • Goods must match any description made of them and any sample shown. If you’re buying a product for a particular purpose, make sure you discuss this explicitly with the salesperson. If in doubt, get it in writing.
  • Spare parts and servicing must be available for products for a “reasonable time” after sale.
  • Services must be carried out with due care and skill, and achieve any result specified… If a plumber promises to fix a leak and the leak continues, the onus is on the plumber to repair it.

There are no explicitly specific periods specified for how long goods must be functional for, since this varies enormously depending on the product category. However, as the ACCC has made clear with recent discussions with phone companies, products provided as part of a contract like mobile phones must remain operable and serviceable for the duration of those contracts.

Businesses can extend these rights — for instance by offering a more specific or longer warranty — but they can’t reduce or ignore them. A business might reasonably argue that the conditions applying to an item sold as a “second” are different, but they can’t opt out altogether. A business cannot display a sign stating “no refunds”. As a consumer, you wouldn’t be able to complain about a stitching flaw in a “seconds” pair of jeans, but if they fell apart the first time you put them on, you’d likely be entitled to ask for a replacement or refund, since they don’t meet their intended purpose at all.

The law also clarifies how problems are to be remedied. If the issue with a product is “major” — defined by the ACCC as “one that is so severe that a reasonable consumer would not have bought the good or service if they had fully understood the problem with it” — then the consumer can choose whether they want a refund, replacement or repair and the vendor can’t object to their choice. For less severe problems, that decision can be made by the supplier.

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