Australia has some of the best protection in the World for consumers. The enactment of a body of law known as the Australian Consumer Law on 1 January 2011 afforded you, as a consumer, an abundance of rights against traders. It effectively replaced the fair trading laws that existed in Queensland.
The Australian Consumer Law applies to all Australian businesses nationally and in all States and Territories for transactions occurring after 1 January 2011. For transactions that occurred prior to 1 January 2011, the previous national, State and Territory consumer laws continue to apply.
The Australian Consumer Law is aimed at protecting consumers from traders who seek to use their relative strength and influence for their own benefit and to your detriment by promoting and regulating fair and reasonable sales contracts and fair and reasonable purchase rights.
You do not need to have a sales contract to be afforded its protection; they will apply to you if you purchase groceries at the supermarket, a television from an electrical store, a bed from a department store and everywhere in between.
The key element of the protection is that you have bought something from a store, trader or tradesperson for less than $40,000, and that item is to be used by you as an ordinary household good, in other words, for personal use (as opposed to commercial use).
As a consumer (or shopper) you have rights against trading practices that might be used to make a sale, for instance
- a business must not make false, misleading or deceiving claims to you about a product it sells
- products must be safe, durable, free from defects, fit for purpose, acceptable in appearance, match its description and match any sample or demonstration model
- if you enter a contract, lay-by agreement or other agreement it must be clear, concise and not contain unfair terms
If you have been the victim of any of these types of trading practices then you may be able to demand a refund from the trader, a replacement or that the product be fixed.
The other major inclusion of your rights are consumer guarantees that apply to the product that you buy. In essence, the Australian Consumer Law requires the seller to guarantee the product is of a certain quality, durability and free from defects. There is no specific timeframe that the guarantee lasts for and it cannot be limited by agreement, for instance, if you purchase a washing machine for $2,000 and its promoted as a long lasting product that will be fit for the purpose of washing clothes for 10 years, then your expectation is that the product will do exactly that, so if it breaks down (without fault on your part), then you are protected by these guarantees, regardless of any manufacture's warranty or guarantee they might offer you separately.
Of course, it is not always that simple, the period in which a product might be protected by a consumer guarantee varies from product to product and the law recognises that a $300 washing machine is unlikely to last 10 years and a consumer guarantee as to durability of that product would be much less. It will change from product to product and from manufacturer to manufacturer.
The Australian Consumer Law is certainly a great protection for consumers and if you feel aggrieved by the practices of a salesperson or have purchased a product, or received a service that you are not happy with, you may have a claim against the seller.
Please contact us to discuss your particular situation so we can assess your rights and provide you with advice on any potential claim you might have.