Published: 18 August 2014
Summary: ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard explains your rights when purchasing disability services and products.
DELIA RICKARD: Hi, I'm Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
You may be one of the many Australians who collectively spend billions of dollars on vital disability services and products every year.
It's important that you know your rights when spending your money.
These rights are the same whether the goods or services are purchased in traditional bricks and mortar stores or online.
For example, let's look at James, who's had funding approved for a new wheelchair.
Where does he start?
Before he to shop around, James should consider his needs and what is important to him.
Things like: features, price, functionality, after sales support, quality, and consumer reviews are important considerations.
He may also have funding to engage an occupational therapist to advise him on these requirements.
Planning and thinking about these things will lead to better choices.
Once James has a good idea about the type of wheelchair he wants, it's worth knowing that consumer rights will apply to this purchase.
It's the law that businesses cannot mislead or deceive James or any other consumers.
Any information they provide him must be accurate.
This includes things such as advertising, labelling, packaging, or information from sales representatives.
The law also gives James other rights when he buys a wheelchair.
For example, it must be of acceptable quality, do all the things the seller said it would do or which James asked for it to do, and be safe.
These are called consumer guarantees, and they apply automatically whenever James buys a consumer good.
If there is something wrong with James' wheelchair, he's entitled to a replacement, repair or refund, depending on the circumstances.
This is the case even if the business says it does not have to give refunds.
James has these rights regardless of any warranty offered by the seller or the manufacturer of the wheelchair.
If James is offered an extended warranty at the point of sale, he should ask the seller, what benefits this warranty would give him that are not covered by the consumer guarantees.
James should only consider paying more money for an extended warranty for a product if it's going to give him benefits above and beyond the automatic consumer guarantee rights that I've talked about.
Similar protections are available for any disability services James may need to purchase.
For example, let's say James engages a builder to build a ramp so that he can access his house with his wheelchair.
The builder services must be provided with acceptable care and skill.
They must be reasonably fit for the purpose that James made known, and they must be provided within a reasonable time.
If the builder makes the ramp too narrow for a wheelchair, James can request they widen the ramp within a reasonable time.
If the builder fails to widen the ramp, James can cancel the contract and negotiate a refund, and potentially seek compensation from the original builder to engage another builder to widen the ramp.
So remember, you do have rights when it comes to buying disability goods and services, and we strongly encourage you to use them as it's your entitlement by law to do so.
If you need to exercise your rights and you are not confident doing it alone, there are a number of people you can call on for support, including friends, family, carers, your local disability support agency, and government bodies such as your local fair trading agency.
You may also wish to contact the National Disability Insurance Agency if you are a NDIS participant.
The ACCC website also has some helpful consumer information and resources.
Visit www.accc.gov.au to learn more about your rights.
All said and done, it's worth your while to be an informed shopper. Know your rights and ensure that you're getting what you've paid for.