GAF's gaffe over small appliances warranty cards

7 May 2009

Buyers of small electrical appliances will be better informed about their statutory rights following Australian Competition and Consumer Commission action.

GAF Control (Sales) Pty Ltd supplies a range of products, including small electrical appliances such as heaters, fans, beauty appliances and kitchen goods under brand names including Tiffany, Avanti, Sunair and Heller.

The ACCC raised concerns that the warranty card GAF supplied with its small electrical appliances breached the Trade Practices Act 1974 as it contained misleading and false information about consumers' warranty and refund rights.

The ACCC was concerned that in purporting to describe consumers' express warranty rights, GAF had produced a card which could potentially lead a consumer to erroneously believe they had no other rights – most importantly the statutory rights implied by the Act into consumer transactions.

"Although suppliers of products can provide their own express warranties that enlarge a consumers' warranty rights, they must not exclude or restrict consumers' statutory rights, or mislead consumers about their statutory rights," ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel said. "If they do, they risk breaking the law and being exposed to a criminal action."

The Act provides that consumers have certain statutory rights relating to goods bought from a retailer. For example, if a good is defective the consumer may be entitled to request a refund from the retailer rather than simply accept an offer of replacement or repair. Such a right is usually available for a reasonable time after the consumer received the goods.

The Act also gives consumers the right to seek compensation from a manufacturer or importer for loss or damage suffered as a result of breach of statutory rights.

GAF has admitted that the warranty cards contained false and misleading statements about consumers' statutory warranty rights.

Under court enforceable undertakings GAF will take corrective action including replacement of its warranty cards and instigating policies and procedures to help prevent repetition. It will place a notice on its website (www.gafcontrol.com.au) explaining the misrepresentations.

The court enforceable undertaking, including further background information and full details of GAF's measures, will be available on the ACCC's website.

Further information about warranties and refunds is available from ACCC's new publication Warranties and refunds: a guide for consumers and business.

During a keynote speech on 12 March 2009 to the National Consumer Congress, the Federal Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Mr Chris Bowen, noted that: "for too long, consumers have been denied the full benefit of statutory conditions and warranties due to a lack of understanding about their rights in consumer transactions."

Mr Bowen has announced that the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council would be conducting a "review of the adequacy of existing laws on conditions and warranties around the country and – drawing on best practice in Australia and overseas – propose enhancements where necessary."

The CCAAC has been asked to consult with industry and to report to the Minister by 31 July 2009. A full transcript of Minister Bowen's speech can be viewed at; Fair markets for confident consumers: Delivering an Australian Consumer Law Keynote Address to the National Consumer Congress

Links

Release number: 
NR 103/09
ACCC Infocentre: 

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