39 per cent increase in consumer guarantee reports in 2017

8 January 2018

More than 29,000 people reported consumer guarantee issues to the ACCC in 2017, with half noting problems getting remedies for faulty automotive, whitegoods or electronics products.

The ACCC is concerned by this growing trend, which shows a 39 per cent increase in reports about consumer guarantee issues when compared to the 21,000 received in 2016.

“It’s disappointing to see that more and more people are having issues enforcing their consumer guarantee rights,” ACCC Acting Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.

“We want shoppers across the country to be aware that they have automatic consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law when they purchase a product or service. Businesses cannot ignore these rights under any circumstances.” 

Issues with faulty products and businesses being misleading about consumer rights are some of the most common reasons for people to contact the ACCC.

“Unfortunately a lot of people run into problems when trying to get a remedy for a faulty product. For example, they might be told the product is out of warranty and nothing can be done,” Dr Schaper said.

“Many consumers often assume that the so-called warranties they are offered by a retailer are their only protection. This is not true, as consumer guarantee rights are separate to any warranty that comes with a product. The length of time these rights apply is also unrelated to the manufacturer’s warranty period.”

“For example, if you buy a new TV that breaks down after the manufacturer’s warranty expires, you may still be entitled to a remedy under your consumer guarantee rights, including a repair, replacement or refund,” Dr Schaper said.

Another common issue is businesses telling consumers they need to take a faulty product back to the manufacturer.

“If you return a faulty product to the retailer you purchased it from, they must provide you with a remedy and cannot direct you to the manufacturer instead,” Dr Schaper said.

“One common tip we recommend is saying the three magic words, Australian Consumer Law, to let retailers know you understand your rights. This can help resolve an issue quickly."

People having difficulties obtaining a remedy for a faulty product can use the ACCC’s complaint letter tool to try and resolve the issue with the trader. If this is unsuccessful, they can contact their local consumer protection agency or report the issue to the ACCC.

Know your rights

If a product you purchased is faulty, your right to choose a remedy depends on whether the failure is major or minor.

If it’s a major fault, the consumer can choose to get a refund, replacement or repair. If it’s a minor fault, the business can choose which of these to offer you.

A product has a major fault when it:

  • has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it

  • is significantly different from the sample or description

  • is substantially unfit for its common purpose and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time

  • doesn’t do what you asked for and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time; or

  • is unsafe.

Note: edited on 12 April 2018.

Release number: 
MR 1/18
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