Consumer watchdog launches legal action against Booktopia over refund rights

Booktopia Tony Nash

Booktopia co-founder Tony Nash. Source: supplied.

The consumer watchdog has launched legal action against Booktopia over claims the online retailer gave customers misleading information about their rights to refunds.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleges Booktopia told 19 customers they had two days to claim a refund on damaged, faulty or incorrect products between January 2020 and November this year. 

The ACCC also alleges the book retailer made representations to consumers that refunds were never available for a select range of products, including ebooks. 

In a statement, the ACCC said Booktopia made misleading representations to customers, giving the impression they couldn’t receive refunds because they hadn’t contacted Booktopia within two days of receiving their purchase. 

Rod Sims, chair of the ACCC, acknowledged the Federal Court proceedings, saying consumers who purchase products from online retailers — be they physical or digital goods — have the same rights as consumers who shop in bricks-and-mortar stores.  

“Australian consumers have a right to refund, repair or replacement for goods that do not meet their consumer guarantee rights which apply for a reasonable period, and no business can exclude, limit or modify those rights,” Sims said. 

The ASX-listed company responded to the ACCC’s proceedings in a statement to its shareholders, indicating that the allegations relate to only two statements featured in Booktopia’s Terms of Business.

“At no time were these communications intended to exclude or limit Booktopia’s obligations under the Australian Consumer Law,” the company said. 

“Customer service is fundamental to how Booktopia trains its staff, sets policies and empowers staff to look after the customer.”

Booktopia claimed the representations about refunds on faulty products were included in writing in its Terms of Business, and the company “always” encourages customers to contact the business directly to resolve issues.

Under Australian Consumer Law (ACL), businesses are obliged to issue refunds on products that fail to meet consumer guarantees. 

According to the ACCC, the ACL covers both electronic and physical goods and does not allow businesses to give customers a period of two days to request a refund on a faulty product. 

“Booktopia’s conduct may have caused consumers not to seek a refund, replacement or repair for faulty digital products, books and other goods in circumstances where the Australian Consumer Law gave them a right to do so,” Sims said.

The ACCC will seeking penalties, declarations, costs and other orders against Booktopia in the Federal Court proceedings.

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