When buying goods or paying for services in Australia, your rights are protected in the event that something is wrong with the goods or services. This is called a consumer guarantee. The law that protects you is called the Australian Consumer Law.
We want to take the time to explain what your consumer rights are, and discuss what you can do (and how we can help you) in the event that a purchase you have made is not what it should have been.
After reading this you can expect to understand what a consumer dispute is, how you can act if a dispute has occurred, and you'll also know what action you can take against a supplier of goods or services.
If you are going through a consumer dispute and need assistance with your rights, contact Aandi Lawyers for advice. We are here to make accessing appropriate outcomes possible.
What is a consumer dispute?
A consumer dispute can occur if you have purchased, hired, or leased goods or services that are under $40,000, or over $40,000 if the goods or services are normally bought for household or personal use. A consumer guarantee applies on products and services that they will:
- Be safe, durable, and with no faults
- Look and be of acceptable quality
- Do what you want them to do
Products also have to match any description given by a salesperson, or on packaging, and must match any demonstration model that you asked for. If you told the business what you wanted to buy the products for, the products must also be fit for this purpose.
Services need to be provided with appropriate skill and care, with steps taken to avoid loss or damage. Services also have to be delivered within a reasonable time frame.
A consumer dispute occurs when you purchase goods or services and there is an issue with the quality or standard of the provided items or service.
What are your rights if you have a consumer dispute?
The first thing you should do if you believe you have a consumer dispute is to contact the business providing the service. In many cases, the business will be able to provide a solution to the issue quickly and easily. You have a right to:
- Have the problem rectified at no additional cost to you
- Seek a refund, a replacement, or a repair—but this will depend on the extent of the issue and whether there is a major or a minor failure.
A major fault is where you cannot use the item, repairs cannot be made quickly or at all, the item or service is unsafe, and/or you would not have bought the item if you knew about the problem. You can get a refund or a replacement and can also seek compensation between the amount paid and the cost of the faulty item.
A minor fault is anything that can be fixed within a reasonable time. If you have a minor fault the business can choose to refund, replace, or repair the goods.
Examples of consumer disputes
You have bought a portable air conditioning unit for use in your home based on a catalogue which describes it as 3.5kW. When it arrives it is only a 2.9kW air conditioner. The product does not match the description which has been given, so you can ask for a full refund.
A television ad which claims a blender will last for ten years must see a blender lasting for ten years. A claim such as this is what is known as an express warranty, and speaks to the performance of the goods. If you bought a blender and it broke after nine years you would be entitled to a refund.
What to do when making a complaint under consumer rights in Australia
So you have identified that you have a potential consumer dispute, and you want to know what to do next. To ensure your complaint happens smoothly it is important to have all the information you might need.
- Write down the issue that you have, and get some evidence to ensure you have enough to make a complaint, both to the business and potentially further on down the line. This might include pictures of the fault, details about when you purchased the item, what happened, how you were using it, and when the problem arose. You want to get the receipt if possible, and write down the date of purchase.
- Once you have sufficient information you need to contact the business to provide them with an opportunity to rectify any issue. Be polite, and simply let them know what the issue is. Set out what you want to have happen, and give the business a reasonable time to respond.
- If you do not get a satisfactory response then it is possible to complain to the fair trading or consumer protection agency in Victoria.
- If your matter still is not resolved then it is worth pursuing a claim in the small claims court or the Administrative Tribunal to achieve rectification.
Note that if you reach the point of pursuing legal action then it is vital that you seek advice. A lawyer can tell you whether it is worth pursuing a course of action, and can also represent you in this matter with their knowledge of Australian Consumer Law.
Don't miss out on what you deserve just because the prospect of legal action seems daunting. We can help throughout the whole process and ensure you know exactly where you stand at all times.