Friday, 04 January 2019 02:53

Faulty products, services complaints hit a new high Featured

By
ACCC Acting Chairman Roger Featherston ACCC Acting Chairman Roger Featherston

Australians are increasingly raising issues about faulty products and services with the national consumer watchdog, the ACCC, with the regulator receiving nearly 34,000 contacts about consumer guarantee related issues in 2018 – an increase of more than 17% compared to 2017.

The record of complaints reveals that people commonly contacted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about issues with faulty cars, electronics, whitegoods, and clothing.

“This is one of the busiest shopping periods of the year, so it’s important people remember they have rights if they’ve received a Christmas present or purchased an item during the Boxing Day sales that later fails,” ACCC acting chair Roger Featherston said.

“These consumer guarantee rights mean you’re entitled to a remedy, either a repair, replacement or refund. If the problem is minor, the retailer who sold the item can choose the remedy. If the problem is major, you get to choose your remedy.”

The ACCC notes that a minor failure is where a problem with a product can be fixed in a reasonable time – while a major problem is where the fault is more serious. For example, this includes if the product doesn’t work anymore and can’t be fixed, if it’s significantly different from its description, if it doesn’t do what you asked for, or if it’s unsafe.

“Consumer guarantees are set in stone in the Australian Consumer Law, meaning businesses cannot alter or change them in any way,” Featherston said.

“A key trick we always tell people is to use the words ‘Australian Consumer Law’ when returning a faulty product so the retailer knows you’re aware of your rights.”

The ACCC warns that people should be wary about potentially misleading claims when returning faulty items. For example, a business may claim they can’t help as the product is out of warranty, that you have to take it to the manufacturer, or that because it was a sale item you can’t return it.

These statements, the ACCC says, are all not true because:

A manufacturer’s warranty is separate to your Australian Consumer Law rights so even if a product is out of warranty, you still may be entitled to a remedy.

The retailer who sells you the product must help with a remedy if it turns out to be faulty. They can’t claim it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to help you and not theirs.

Sale items are covered by consumer guarantees. If the sale item later breaks, you have the same rights – it makes no difference if you pay a discounted price.

“A lot of people like to shop online, including at overseas-based retailers. Another common complaint we receive is that a business won’t help a consumer with a faulty item as they are based overseas and aren’t subject to the Australian Consumer Law,” Featherston said.

“This also isn’t true. Any overseas business that sells products to people in Australia is bound by our consumer law and must help you.”

Featherston added that consumer guarantees did not apply for a change of mind.

“If you received a gift that you don’t like, or changed your mind about something you bought at the Boxing Day sales, consumer guarantee rights don’t apply, but some retailers may let you exchange gifts for another item,” he said.

The ACCC says that people having difficulties obtaining a remedy for a faulty product can use the its complaint letter tool to try to resolve the issue with the trader. If this is unsuccessful, they can contact their local consumer protection agency or report the issue to the ACCC.

More information about consumer guarantee rights is also available at the ACCC’s website.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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