It’s a common experience: you want to return an item, only to be told that you don’t have the receipt, or it’s not in its original packaging, or some clause in the retailer’s policy bars you from returning it.
If only you knew your rights as a consumer to be able to argue your case.
As a customer, the law is on your side more than you realise.
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“As a consumer, you have automatic rights – called consumer guarantees – after you purchase a product or service,” said CouriersPlease head of commercial and transformation Jessica Ip.
“For instance, you have the right to receive a refund on an item if it doesn’t match its description, or receive a repair or replacement if the product is faulty.”
Here are all the rules and regulations around shopping returns that every Australian should know about:
1. You can’t return everything
According to consumer guarantee rights, you have the right to return an item if it doesn’t match its description, the right to a repair or a replacement for a faulty product, and the right to cancel a service if it fails to meet expectations.
But if you’ve simply changed your mind, you’ve found a cheaper alternative or you simply no longer need it, retailers are not required to offer a remedy.
2. You can still return something without a receipt
This one is handy to keep in mind. “Legally, you do not need to provide a cash register receipt to return a product,” said Ip.
“As long as you can prove the item was purchased from that store, you are entitled to a full refund.” Proof of purchase means a credit card statement, a lay-by agreement, an order confirmation or a receipt number from an online purchase.
3. You don’t need a warranty to return something faulty
All those signs that say ‘no refunds’ or ‘no refunds on sales items’ are actually unlawful, according to the ACCC – your consumer guarantees rights still apply.
And whether or not you’ve purchased a warranty – which is usually offered to electronics or white goods anyway – at the time of purchasing your item, you are actually still entitled to a repair or replacement.
“In addition, depending on the state [you live in], your rights under the consumer guarantees do not have a specific expiry date and can apply after the product warranty has expired,” Ip added.
4. A free repair, replacement or refund depends on the problem
Does the product have a minor problem? Return it within a reasonable timeframe (this will depend on the product and retailer) and you can be offered a free repair instead of a replacement or refund, according to the ACCC.
Problem can’t be fixed? The retailer has to give you a refund, a replacement or absorb the costs for getting it fixed somewhere else.
If the problem is major – i.e. it’s irreparable, doesn’t match the description, or unsafe – you should be offered your choice of either a refund or a replacement.
5. You don’t need the original packaging to return an item
“Many store policies say that retailers can only accept returns if the product is still in saleable condition, which often means that it needs to be in its original packaging,” said Ip. But this is unlawful: so long as it meets consumer guarantees, you’re entitled to a refund.
So if you received a product in the wrong size, colour or it’s faulty, you’re eligible for a refund, even without the original packaging.
6. You can’t refund a product if you change your mind
Yes, some stores may offer ‘change of mind’ refunds – but not all retailers are actually legally obliged to offer this, so the ‘no change-of-mind refunds’ signs are legitimate, unfortunately.
7. Unlawful signs aren’t allowed
Signs that don’t reflect consumer guarantee rights, like ‘no refunds allowed’ are unlawful.
“Retailers are allowed, however, to display signs that are a little restrictive, but more reasonable, such as ‘we offer refunds and exchanges for change of mind up to 30 days’,” said Ip.
8. In some cases, used items without tags can be returned
If you purchased a faulty product unknowingly, you can return the item and get a refund – and that’s irrespective of whether or not you’ve worn it or removed the tags.
“This is to accommodate for negative events related to a fault that occurs after a sale, such as a missing button from loose stitching or the dye running after washing,” Ip said.
Now that you’re across your rights as a consumer in Australia, don’t let a retailer jip you ever again.
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