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Under the Australian Consumer Law, certain consumer guarantees apply automatically, including that a product must be of acceptable quality - it is:
- fit for the purpose for which it is commonly used
- safe, durable and free from defects
- acceptable in appearance and finish.
If a product does not meet the consumer guarantees, the consumer is entitled to a remedy. The type of remedy depends on whether the problem is major or minor.
A problem is considered to be major when a reasonable consumer would not have bought the product if they had known the problem beforehand – for example, a toaster breaks down before a reasonable consumer would expect it to.
Remedies for major problems
Consumers are entitled to:
- reject the product and choose a refund or replacement, or
- keep it and the seller will compensate them for any drop in value.
If the product has some other problem that is not covered by ‘major problem’ above, it can be considered to be a minor problem. For example, it does not do what it is normally supposed to do but can be fixed easily 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 the store refuses or fails to do any of the above, the consumer may:
- have the problem fixed elsewhere and claim the reasonable costs of doing so from the store, or
- reject the product and claim a refund or replacement.
Considerations and exclusions
This guarantee does not apply to products purchased at auction, where the auctioneer acts on the seller’s behalf.
Major or minor?
When determining if a problem is major or minor, the consumer must take into account:
- the type of product – for example, a large appliance such as a fridge is expected to last longer than a toaster
- the price – for example, a cheap toaster may not be expected to last as long as a top-of-the-range one
- any statements about the product on its packaging or label – for example, the toaster box shows a special defroster function
- any statements about the product by the store or seller, either in person, in print or online - for example, the salesperson said the crumb tray was easy to detach and clean.
Issues not considered a faulty product
Issues that are neither minor nor major problems include:
- fair wear and tear alone
- change of mind – for example, the consumer no longer likes the colour of an item of clothing
- a hidden defect specifically drawn to the consumer’s attention before the purchase – for example, a pair of shoes with a ‘seconds’ label that states that the stitching is faulty
- a defect that the consumer should have noticed on examination – for example, faded paint on antique or second-hand products that a consumer can inspect
- a defect due to abnormal use – for example, a television is broken by something hitting the screen.