What is the Australian consumer law?

It’s happened to all of us. You’ve ordered something online and it’s arrived broken, or produced at a much lower quality than advertised. Or maybe you’ve hired someone to do some work around your home, and it wasn’t completed to industry standard. Or – worse – not completed at all. 

It’s frustrating and upsetting, for sure. But what can you do about it? What are your rights?

Many Australians aren’t aware that they do have rights. And these are rights that are in place regardless of any manufacturer’s warranties or warranties on work given by the service provider. They cannot be contracted out of or replaced or superseded by anything else. And these are your rights under Australian consumer laws.

What is the Australian consumer law?

Australian consumer law (or ACL) provides rights (called ‘consumer guarantees’) to all Australian consumers. These rights are set out in the Competition and Consumer Act, 2010 and include:

  1. the right to repair, replacement or refund.
  2. the right to compensation for damages and loss.
  3. the right to cancel a faulty service. 

The rights set out above apply in some very specific in some ways – such as specific dollar amounts of certain kinds of transactions. And these limitations can be read in the act itself. But the ACL is also purposefully broad. This was done deliberately in order to provide the widest protections to the Australian consumer public. 

What’s covered under the ACL?

The protections under the ACL come in the form of guarantees for consumers. So, this means that businesses must provide an automatic guarantee to consumers that covers any product or service they sell. At its most basic level, this guarantees that the product or service is as advertised. But it goes further than this. 

For a product, consumer guarantees ensure:

  • it is of acceptable quality;
  • it matches the description provided;
  • it meets any express warranties;
  • it is fit for purpose.

For a service, consumer guarantees ensure:

  • it’s provided with due care and skill;
  • it’s fit for the specified purpose;
  • it’s delivered within a reasonable time (if no time is set).

When you didn’t get what you ordered

So what if you’ve purchased a product and it didn’t meet the standards set out in the ACL. Or you bought a service that was not fit for purpose. What can you do about it?

Stage 1: Request for repair, replace or refund from the retailer

When your product or service doesn’t meet the standards set under the ACL, then you have the right to ask for a repair, replacement or refund. What you are entitled to receive will depend on the issue – and how big of a problem it is.

In many cases, the problem will just be a little thing. And the business can give you a free repair to fix the situation. However, if the problem is bigger – and repair won’t work – then you may be entitled to a replacement or refund. Replacements have to be identical to what was provided originally, so when that’s not available, a refund will be the only option.

Common kickbacks

When you go to the retailer, you might hear a lot of kickbacks. Common things we hear are:

  • ‘It’s out of warranty.’
  • ‘We don’t offer refunds.’
  • ‘It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility.’

These are absolutely wrong. You have rights under Australian consumer laws, including the right to seek compensation from the retailer. 

Stage 2: Approach the manufacturer

If you aren’t able to get compensation from the retailer who sold the product or service to you, you can approach the manufacturer under the ACL guarantees. But you’ll only be able to recover costs from them or – occasionally – compensation for damages or loss. 

Stage 3: Speak to your lawyer

If you aren’t able to get the matter settled on your own with either the retailer or the manufacturer, get in touch with your lawyer. Our experts are on hand to help you to take action to resolve the issue. We can do this through negotiation and mediation so you won’t automatically end up in court. Of course, for large matters that simply won’t settle, appearing before the court might be the right approach in the end. 

No expiry date!

It’s important to remember that your rights under Australian consumer laws don’t have a specific expiry date. So if you’ve had a problem with a product or service, no matter when it was, get in touch with our experts. We’ll be able to help you understand your rights and the steps to ensure you’re being compensated correctly. 

Patrick Dawson Law
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At Patrick Dawson Law we want you to be informed, proactive and get the right advice about your rights under Australian consumer laws. And as consumer lawyer we have the expertise to help you manage all your consumer rights as well!

The information in this blog is general advice only and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. For more information, visit the ACCC website.

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