ACCC takes HP to court

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has brought proceedings in the Federal Court in Sydney against Hewlett-Packard for what the watchdog says are false and misleading warranties issued by the computer giant.


The ACCC claims HP engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by making false or misleading representations about statutory warranties, consumer guarantee rights, refunds and replacements.


The watchdog claims HP told consumers the remedies for a faulty HP product were limited to remedies available from HP at its sole discretion and required consumers to have a faulty product repaired multiple times by HP before being entitled to receive a replacement.


The ACCC claims HP also limited its warranties to an “express” warranty period, after which time consumers had to pay for repairs, and represented that consumers could not return or exchange HP products purchased from the HP Online Store, unless agreed by HP.


The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, civil pecuniary penalties, disclosure orders, adverse publicity orders, redress for consumers affected by HP’s conduct, a compliance program and costs.


The case is set down for a scheduling conference on December 7, 2012.


Sally Scott, partner at Hall & Wilcox, told SmartCompany HP is not alone in allegedly misrepresenting consumer rights and warranties and she says the majority of Australian retailers are currently in breach of the law.


“Most companies are not complying, including many of the biggest companies who would have ready access to lawyers,” she says.


“It was only a matter of time until the ACCC took a stronger stance.”


Scott says the law provides consumers with protections if products and services are faulty and these protections cannot be excluded by retailers or manufacturers


“Retailers and manufacturers can provide additional warranties and refund/exchange rights and they can provide conditions on those specific additional rights,” Scott says.


“However, what they can’t do is suggest that consumers only have those specific warranties and rights or that to access any warranties or rights, they must comply with the retailer’s conditions.”


Scott says statements by retailers that refunds will only be provided if a claim is made within 14 days and a receipt is presented or that there is no refund on sale items are misleading and contravene Australian law.


“Retailers need to make it blatantly clear that if they are imposing conditions on their own additional warranties and refund/exchange rights that those conditions do not apply to rights available under the Australian Consumer Law” she says.


“Most retailers are getting this wrong.”


A spokesperson for HP told SmartCompany it was investigating the ACCC’s claims.


“HP takes seriously the matters raised by the ACCC and will fully investigate and respond appropriately,” the spokesperson said.


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.


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