Under the Australian Consumer Law, certain consumer guarantees apply automatically, including that manufacturers will make repair facilities and spare parts available for a reasonable amount of time.
During that time, if a product is not of acceptable quality, the consumer is entitled to a remedy from the store. The type of remedy depends on whether the problem is major or minor.
There is a major problem if the product:
- does not do what it is normally supposed to do and the problem cannot easily be fixed within a reasonable time
- is unsafe, or
- a reasonable consumer would not have bought it if they had known beforehand that spare parts or repairs would not be available.
Remedies for major problems
Consumers can choose whether to:
- reject the product and choose a refund or replacement, or
- keep it and the seller will compensate them for any drop in value.
The problem is not major if, for example, the product does not do what it is supposed to do but the problem can be easily fixed and within a reasonable time.
Remedies for minor problems
The store chooses whether to:
- provide a replacement that is identical, or of similar value
- repair the product within a reasonable time, or
- give a refund.
If, however, the store does not provide a remedy within a reasonable time, a consumer may choose to:
- seek to have the product repaired elsewhere and seek all reasonable costs from the store, or
- reject the product for a refund or replacement.
Manufacturers guarantee to take reasonable steps to provide spare parts and repair facilities - a place that can fix the consumer’s products - for a reasonable time after purchase.
If the manufacturer does not have an office in Australia, the importer takes on these responsibilities.
How much time is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the circumstances and the type of products. For instance it:
- would be reasonable to expect that tyres for a new car will be available for a number of years after its purchase
- may not be reasonable to expect that spare parts for an inexpensive children’s toy are available at all.
A manufacturer does not have to meet the guarantee on repairs and spare parts if they advised the consumer in writing, at or before the time of purchase, that repair facilities and spare parts would not be available, or would not be available after a specified time.
This consumer guarantee does not apply to products sold by auction where the auctioneer acts on the seller’s behalf.
A consumer can recover costs from the manufacturer, including an amount for reduction in the product’s value and, in some cases, compensation for damages or loss for a failure to comply with this guarantee. However, other remedies apply to the underlying defect (see ‘major problem’ and ‘minor problem’ above).