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Consumer Law

 

Under Australian consumer law, most goods and services bought in Australia come with automatic guarantees that they will work and do what they are supposed to do. If not, the law gives you consumer rights to repair, replacement, refund, service cancellation, and compensation.

 

Consumer guarantees

Consumer guarantees set out required standards which apply to most goods and services that cost up to $40,000 (or more if they’re normally used for personal or domestic purposes).

For full details about the standards and what goods or services are covered: fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/guarantees,-contracts-and-warranties/consumer-guarantees

 

Repairs, replacements and refunds

You do not automatically have the right to return an item for refund, or to receive all or part of a deposit back, if you simply change your mind, or realise you selected the wrong product or size. However, many traders choose to do this with proof of purchase.

You do have the right to a repair, refund or replacement if goods or services bought in Australia do not meet one or more of the consumer guarantees.

If you have a minor problem with goods or services, the business can choose to give you a free repair instead of a replacement or refund. For a major problem with a product, you have the right to ask for your choice of a replacement or refund. If you have a major service problem, you can choose to receive compensation for the drop in value below the price paid, or a refund.

For full details about repairs, replacements, and refunds: fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/repairs,-replacements-and-refunds

 

Cancelling a service

Under some circumstances you have the right to cancel a service if it doesn’t meet the consumer guarantees in relation to services.

For more information: fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/guarantees,-contracts-and-warranties/cancelling-a-service

 

Compensation for damage and loss

You can ask for compensation for damages and losses you suffer if the supplier could have reasonably anticipated the problem. This is in addition to a repair, replacement or refund, or cancellation of a service.

More information: fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/repairs,-replacements-and-refunds/compensation-for-damage-and-loss

 

Warranties

Sometimes people or businesses also offer a warranty or an optional extended warranty (often called a “care package”) on the goods or services they supply. Although a warranty is a voluntary promise, once you purchase their goods or service, the warranty becomes a right which you can enforce under consumer law.

For information on warranties and the things to watch out for when offered extended warranties: fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/guarantees,-contracts-and-warranties/warranties

 

Unsolicited consumer agreements

If you enter into an agreement to purchase goods or services, including switching providers, with someone who knocks on your door, calls you on the phone, approaches you in a shopping centre, or as a result of entering a competition, this would be considered an unsolicited consumer agreement. In these cases you have the additional rights.

For more information: fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/guarantees,-contracts-and-warranties/unsolicited-consumer-agreements

 

False or misleading descriptions

It’s against the law for businesses to make false claims or provide misleading descriptions about goods or service.

For more information: fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/advertising-and-pricing/false-and-misleading-representations

 

Misleading or deceptive conduct

Consumer law also protects consumers from misleading or deceptive conduct. Business conduct is likely to break the law if it creates a misleading overall impression among the intended audience about the price, value or quality of consumer goods or services.

Whether a business intends to mislead or deceive is irrelevant; what matters is how their statements, actions and business conduct, affect the thoughts and beliefs of you as the consumer.

For more information: fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/advertising-and-pricing/misleading-or-deceptive-conduct

 

Tips for dealing with your consumer problem

  • Always keep receipts, dockets, invoices or contracts as proof of the transaction
  • You don’t need to keep the original packaging as you’re not required to return it
  • First speak to the retailer or supplier who sold you the goods or provided the service
  • If you haven’t been able to resolve your problem, lodge a complaint with NSW Fair Trading
  • If your unresolved dispute is about a service covered by an Ombudsman, contact them. They offer free investigation and alternative dispute resolution services to help you.

 

Further information

For more information about consumer law and how to deal with a consumer dispute: NSW Fair Trading: fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

Australian Consumer Law: consumerlaw.gov.au

For assistance dealing with a consumer dispute with a financial service, see the website of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA): afca.org.au

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) will assist you to deal with complaints about your telephone or internet services: tio.com.au

Consumer complaints about all electricity and gas, and some water, suppliers in New South Wales are handled by the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON): ewon.com.au

If you require further advice or assistance with a consumer law matter, the SUPRA Legal Service can help you.

 

Disclaimer

This information is current as at December 2018 and is intended as a guide to the law as it applies to people who live in or are affected by the law as it applies in NSW. It does not constitute legal advice.

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