Shoppers told to “know their rights” this Christmas

Retailers have been put on notice after the consumer watchdog said shoppers should “know their rights” this Christmas with regard to guarantees, warranties and refunds.


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is urging consumers to use their shopping rights this Christmas if the products or services they purchase are not as described.


“Whether you buy in-store or online, there are minimum standards that retailers must meet,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.


“Retailers must provide a minimum guarantee that the product is fit for purpose.”


“If it doesn’t do what it says on the box, or what the salesperson told you it would do, the law allows you to have it repaired, replaced or refunded.”


The news comes after it was revealed glittery Christmas candles are being recalled from Coles stores across Australia due to safety concerns.


“The product is being recalled due to a risk that the glitter coating on the candle may catch alight, and remain alight for longer than permitted under safety regulations,” Coles said in a statement.

The candles were on sale from October 2010 to January 2011, and from October 2011. Customers are being urged to return the candles to their nearest Coles store for a full refund.


According to the ACCC, there are two areas that often cause confusion to consumers: their rights when shopping online and the issue of warranties.


“Particularly online, where you can’t touch or examine the product you are buying, it is important to know that retailers must match their advertised descriptions,” Sims said.


Many retailers and manufacturers also offer additional or extended warranties, which can cause confusion.


“Shoppers should realise they may have a right to a repair, replacement or refund beyond the time period of the manufacturer’s warranty,” Sims said.


While some extended warranties may offer protection over and above that provided by the Australian Consumer Law, they do not replace the underlying guarantees.


The consumer guarantees provided by the ACL require that goods and services:

  • Be of acceptable quality.
  • Be fit for purpose.
  • Match the description.
  • Match any sample or demonstration model.
  • Must meet any extra promises made by the supplier.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council is urging retailers to improve the terms and conditions of their gift cards, after identifying issues faced by consumers.


“The person who experiences these difficulties is not usually the person who purchases the gift card,” the CCAAC said.


“This raises a number of issues with respect to the ability of retailers to clearly disclose important information to the person who will ultimately receive the gift card.”


“It is also arguable that some terms and conditions are onerous for consumers, and not reasonably necessary to protect the trader’s legitimate commercial interests.”


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