Clothing retailer APG & Co Pty Ltd, trading as Sportscraft (Sportscraft), has paid penalties totalling $21,600 after being issued with two infringement notices by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission following an investigation into the recognition of consumer guarantee rights in the clothing retail industry.

The ACCC issued the infringement notices because it had reasonable grounds to believe that Sportscraft had made false or misleading representations about consumer guarantees to its customers, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

From at least 29 January 2016, Sportscraft stated on tax invoice receipts that consumers would not be entitled to return or exchange faulty goods purchased from a clearance store. From at least 29 March 2016, Sportscraft also stated on its website that it would not refund, exchange or credit note the item more than 21 days after purchase.

“Consumer guarantee rights apply for all purchases a consumer makes, and these rights cannot be removed or reduced by a business’s terms and conditions. Clothing retailers cannot exclude or refuse a consumer’s right to a remedy simply because the faulty goods are bought at a discount clearance store," ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

“This is a timely reminder for all retail stores, particularly for clothing retailers, to review their refund or returns policies to ensure that they do not contravene the ACL,” Ms Court said.

The consumer guarantee provisions of the ACL set out the rights that all consumers are entitled to whenever they purchase goods or services in Australia. For example, goods must be of acceptable quality, fit for any specified purpose and must match any description given or sample shown.

“Consumer guarantees remain a priority area for the ACCC.  It is concerning that we’ve seen a number of similar complaints in the fashion industry of late,” Ms Court said.

“The ACCC is continuing investigations regarding at least one other clothing retailer, and expects further action in this area.”

Sportscraft has made amendments to its refund and returns policy, which can be found in store or on the Sportscraft website.

The payment of an infringement notice penalty is not an admission of a contravention of the ACL. The ACCC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection laws.