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Unhappy with your Temu, Amazon or Shein purchase? There's plenty you can do about it

You may have heard warnings about how little you can do if something you bought online is faulty, but consumers still have rights even on the internet, an experts says.

With the rise in popularity of online retailers like Temu, Aliexpress, Shein, Amazon and others offering consumer goods at significantly lower prices, many shoppers are choosing to make purchases online to try to limit their household expenses amid the cost of living crisis. However, if a problem arises, many people are at a loss on how to rectify it.

“I know they look cheaper online, but remember a lot of those online retailers don’t give you a proper warranty. If something goes wrong with one you buy here, we would be able to send it away for repair or replace it for you. But if you buy online to save some money, and something goes wrong, that online seller might not help you out.”

Yahoo Finance overheard this speech being delivered by a sales clerk several times to different customers at a camera store this week. Legally, however, even if you don’t have an “official” warranty, you might still be entitled to a replacement camera, repair or refund.

A woman uses her phone to pick out clothes on a website.
Whether you are shopping online or in person, consumers still have rights. (Source: Getty)

Do you have a story to tell? Contact yahoo.finance.au@yahooinc.com

Professor Jeannie Paterson from the University of Melbourne’s law school told Yahoo Finance consumers still have rights even if their warranty has expired and their product was bought online.

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That’s because of basic rights called consumer guarantees, which state that goods will be acceptable quality and durable.

“If consumers have a problem with a product, they should assert their rights under the ACL consumer guarantees, regardless of any manufacturer or retailer warranty that may have been supplied or sold with the product," an Australian Competitions and Consumer Commission (ACCC) spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

If asserting your rights with the business doesn’t work, you can contact your local state consumer watchdog, such as Fair Trading NSW or Consumer Affairs Victoria, who can step in to try and resolve disputes between buyers and sellers.

Young girls shopping for clothes.
Many shoppers think they have fewer rights once a warranty has expired, but that's not always the case. (Source: Getty)

Before you rush to bring your old sneakers to Rebel Sport looking for a refund payday, know that whether you are entitled to a remedy such as a refund, repair or replacement depends on several factors.

These include:

  • How much you paid

  • How long you’ve had it

  • What it’s made of

  • What the manufacturer advertised

The Australian Consumer Law regulators, including the ACCC and its state and territory counterparts, list some examples in their guidance on the consumer guarantee as to acceptable quality and ‘durability’.

“Consumers have rights even if the warranty has expired," Paterson said.

"But the reality is that it is easier as a practical matter to get a remedy when the warranty is still on foot."

A seller, who may have been very obliging during the warranty period, may now tell you your crackling soundbar needs to be assessed by someone else.

They can also ask you to pay the reasonable cost of transport of the faulty goods for assessment and return postage. If it’s found there is an eligible product fault, those will be refunded.

Professor Jeannie Paterson (left) and shoppers browsing in a store (right).
Professor Jeannie Paterson says retailers often try to get out of doing the right thing. (Source: Supplied/ Getty)

But what if the assessor says it’s dead because of normal wear and tear?

“It’s a gamble,” said Paterson.

“And I think that sometimes retailers and manufacturers play on that saying, ‘Well, we’re going to send it off, but if we find that it’s your fault, you have to pay’. And at that point, consumers sometimes give up.”

She said manufacturers legally indemnify retailers i.e. cover the seller’s cost of a returned good, but “the problem we’re seeing often is that the manufacturer isn’t paying or respecting that indemnity. And then the retailer is playing hardball [with the customer]".

Despite the suspicion many consumers have towards international sellers with no Australian offices such as Temu and AliExpress, Paterson said such overseas e-commerce giants are often easier to deal with than an Australian brick and mortar retailer.

"My students say that they’ve bought telephones or laptops that have broken quite quickly, even been dead on arrival, and they’ve taken it back to the physical store," she explained to Yahoo Finance. "And the physical store said to them: 'You broke it. It’s not us, it’s you.'"

"The other platforms [such as Temu and AliExpress] arguably have better dispute resolution processes because they have to give a remedy within a certain period of time.

Woman walking along with a shopping bag.
You may be happy with something when you purchase it but change your mind down the track. (Source: Getty)

"Because they’re so big, they tend not to worry about having an argument about the ins and outs of the things. They tend to have a policy, which is if you complain within 90 days or whenever the timeline is, they give you a remedy."

On the other hand, such international seller dispute resolution timelines tend to be far shorter than the common Australian one-year warranty. While international sellers delivering to Australia are still bound by Australian legal consumer guarantees, Paterson said "the problem is enforcement”.

“If the product has been purchased overseas on a platform, the rights to repair or a refund for an overseas good are practically nil," she explained.

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