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Under the Australian Consumer Law, products you buy from an Australian business are covered by ‘consumer guarantees’.
These apply to:
- new and second-hand products
- sale items
- items bought from an Australian business online.
Note: if you bought an item online from a private seller (not engaged in trade or commerce) or overseas store, different rules apply. View our:
The following are the consumer guarantees, with an example of how each might apply in practice.
The product is of acceptable quality; that is:
- fit for the purpose for which it is commonly supplied
- safe, durable and free from defects
- acceptable in appearance and finish.
Miyuki buys a café-quality blender, but the blades snap after only two weeks of using it to make fruit smoothies. The product is not of acceptable quality – it is faulty.
The product will match the description (for example, on the label, in a TV commercial, or on the website).
Any faults present at the time of sale must be indicated (for example, on a tag or in photos or the item description online).
Nancy orders a leather wallet from an online retailer. When it is delivered, she discovers the wallet is actually made from PVC (vinyl). The product does not match the description.
The product will match the quality of any sample or demonstration model.
Janice goes into a store to look for a leather lounge. Once home, she decides on a lounge and orders it from their online store. When it is delivered, she finds that the leather is of a poorer quality than the sample in the store. The product does not match the original sample.
The product is reasonably fit for any purpose specified by the customer and agreed by the seller, at the time of sale.
Jerome emails an online store, asking if the vacuum cleaner they are selling online will vacuum up pet hair. A store representative responds that it will.
When Jerome uses the vacuum, he finds the suction is not strong enough to remove pet hair from his carpet. The product is not fit for Jerome’s specified purpose.
The seller has the right to sell the product and pass good title to the customer.
The seller must ensure that no one will try to repossess or take back the product (for example, if it was stolen or sold without the owner’s consent); and that there is no money owing on the product.
Nathan buys a used car from a licensed motor car trader. It is later repossessed by the police because it turns out it was stolen. The trader did not give Nathan clear title to the product.
Repairs and spare parts are available for a reasonable amount of time.
Mahmoud buys a new camera. Six months later, the camera stops working. Mahmoud discovers the camera was a discontinued model, and the manufacturer cannot access spare parts to fix his camera. The manufacturer did not ensure that repairs and spare parts were available.
When you have the right to return a product
After you use a product, or when you receive an item you bought online, you may identify problems with it – in other words, it does not meet a consumer guarantee.
Depending on the type of problem (also known as a failure under the Australian Consumer Law), the store or seller may have to provide a ‘remedy’, such as:
- a refund
- a replacement
The type of remedy you are entitled to depends on whether the problem is major or minor.
Major problems with products
If there is a major problem with a product, you are entitled to return it and seek a remedy.
The following are major problems, with an example of how each might apply in practice.
If a reasonable consumer had known about the problem, they never would have bought the product.
Ramona would not have bought her washing machine if she knew the motor was going to burn out after three months.
The product is significantly different from a sample, description or demonstration model.
James orders a red scarf online, but the scarf delivered is hot pink.
The product cannot do what the consumer told the salesperson they needed it to do, or what it is normally supposed to do, and this problem cannot be fixed quickly or easily.
A salesperson assures Quang that the watch he buys can be worn while deep-sea diving. When he goes diving, the watch fills up with water.
The product is unsafe.
Elsa buys a car seat for her baby. After a couple of months, the belt buckle becomes loose.
If there is a major problem with a product you have bought, you can:
- reject it and choose a refund or replacement, or
- keep it and the seller will compensate you for any drop in value.
For more information, view our Replacements section.
Minor problems with products
A minor problem can be fixed within a reasonable time.
You must give the store the chance to fix the problem. They choose whether to refund, repair or replace. For more information, view the following sections (below):
When you do NOT have the right to return a product
Under the Australian Consumer Law, you have the right to return a product and get a refund or exchange if the product does not meet certain consumer guarantees - for example, if the product is faulty.
You do not have a right to return a product if you:
- changed your mind and no longer want the product
- ordered the wrong product
- found the product cheaper elsewhere
- found a better product elsewhere
- were aware of the relevant fault before buying the product (such as if the fault was written on the product's tag, or for online purchases, indicated in any photos or descriptions of the item online)
- damaged the product by misusing it – (such as if you dropped your mobile phone in water)
- used the product for a long time and the problem is as a result of usual wear and tear.
In some of these situations, the store or seller may still choose to give you a refund, exchange or credit note. If they have their own refund policy that offers more than what is required by law, you may be able to return the product, if for example, you bring the product back within a set period of time. The store or seller must comply with the terms of their in-store policies. For more information, view our Change of mind page.
An in-store refund policy is not a cooling-off period. Unlike door-to-door sales and telemarketing contracts, standard consumer purchases do not have an automatic 'cooling-off' period, unless one is stated in the terms and conditions. For more information on door-to-door sales and telemarketing contrats, view our Contracts and sales calls section.
Remember that it may be difficult to return a product if you do not have a receipt or other proof of purhcase. For more information, view our Receipts page.
If there is a major problem with the product, you can:
- reject it and choose a replacement or refund, or
- keep it and the seller will compensate you for any drop in value.
If there is a minor problem with the product, the store can choose whether to:
- provide a replacement that is identical, or of similar value
- repair the product within a reasonable time, or
- give you a refund.
Your rights to a remedy apply to the replacement product in the same way as the original product.
Maya buys a new mobile phone. Due to a major problem, the store replaces it. If there is a problem with the replacement phone, Maya can take it back to the store. She has the same rights to a remedy as if it were a new mobile phone.
Generally, it is the store or seller’s responsibility to return products to the manufacturer for repair. This may include products that are under warranty.
If the store cannot arrange repairs (for example, because the manufacturer does not have the necessary parts) or cannot do so within a reasonable time, you can:
- get someone else to repair the product and ask the store to pay reasonable costs
- ask for a refund or replacement.
Several buttons come off Rohan’s new shirt due to poor stitching. The tailor who made the shirt can’t supply matching buttons. Rohan is entitled to ask for a refund or replacement.
Returning faulty products
Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), suppliers and manufacturers automatically provide guarantees about products they sell. These guarantees are rights that exist regardless of any extra warranty provided by the supplier or manufacturer.
Sometimes, when products do not work, do not do what they should, or are not what you asked for, the supplier may need to examine them in order to figure out what the problem is and what should be done.
Initial cost of returning faulty products
Products do not need to be in their original packaging to be returned. You may, however, need to ensure the products are adequately protected for posting or collection. If you are not able to take the products to the supplier in person, and the supplier does not have a complimentary pick up or return policy, you may have to return them by post or another delivery service.
As a general rule, if the item can be posted or easily returned, you should cover the initial cost of returning faulty products to the supplier. You should keep the receipts for those costs because if the returned products are later confirmed to have a fault - whether major or minor - you can recover your reasonable postage or transportation costs from the seller.
When products with a major fault are too large, too heavy or too difficult to remove, because of the very nature of the fault, the seller becomes responsible for the initial cost of returning the products. For example, if the fault has made the product too dangerous or fragile to deal with without expensive expert assistance.
The seller needs to pay the necessary shipping costs, or otherwise collect the products, within a reasonable time of being notified that you have rejected the products. Examples of products too large or heavy to return without significant cost would include:
- a wide screen TV
- a bed
- an extension ladder stuck in the extended position
- a product that has been subsequently installed, like a stove or a dishwasher.
Tips for avoiding disputes
Before products are returned, the seller should provide clear advice of any transport or inspection costs that apply if the item is not faulty. This will enable you to choose whether you wish to go ahead with that method of returning the products.
Failing to disclose these costs may be misleading or deceptive conduct, in breach of the ACL, especially where it denies you the opportunity to choose whether you wish to go ahead with returning the products.
Sellers cannot inflate costs in an attempt to deter you from pursuing your claims. To do so may also be misleading, deceptive or even unconscionable conduct, in the breach of the ACL. For more information, view our Misleading or deceptive conduct page.
If you are having a dispute with the store or seller about a refund, repair or replacement, view our Resolve your problem or complaint page.