Consumers and retailers should remember that all purchasers of new goods have statutory warranty rights that cannot be overridden, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission* Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, warned today.

He was commenting on a recently concluded ACCC investigation into the warranty policies of electronics manufacturers who are members of the Consumer Electronics Suppliers Association (CESA).

"More than $4 billion in consumer electronics are sold in Australia each year," Professor Fels said. "Many items are bought as Christmas presents. Warranties are not null and void during Christmas - nor at any time of year.

"The investigation alleged that in early 1994 the association had:

  • met and unlawfully agreed to limit warranty claims to seven days;
  • falsely represented to retailers and consumers that warranty claims are limited to seven days;
  • misled or deceived consumers concerning the nature and extent of statutory and express warranties.

"On becoming aware of the meetings, the Commission conducted an intensive audit of 26 manufacturers' warranty policies and procedures. As a result, most companies immediately undertook a review and introduced compliance programs to ensure that staff, retailers and service centres are aware of company warranty obligations. Where necessary, this included reprinting of warranty material.

"Consumers should not accept that exclusions in manufacturers' voluntary warranties will necessarily affect their statutory warranty rights. Consumers are always entitled to the statutory warranty rights in the Trade Practices Act and these are in addition to any voluntary or express warranty given by manufacturers.

"In particular, consumers need not pay for the cost of freight or return goods in the original packaging if the goods:

  • are defective; or
  • don't do the job they are intended for; or
  • don't match a sample or description.

"Consumers can return goods and claim a refund or get a replacement, regardless of what is on the printed warranty. If a consumer decides to have a product repaired by the supplier or manufacturer because of a manufacturing fault, then this should be done free. Further details in relation to consumers' statutory warranty rights are available through Commission offices throughout Australia."