Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn help someone on getting a refund for a broken electrical appliance.
I bought my son an electrical appliance for Christmas from one of those kiosks in shopping centres that have items “as seen on TV”. The salesperson told me that if it didn’t work I could swap it, or exchange it for something else in store but there were strictly no refunds allowed. On Christmas Day, he plugged it in, it threw sparks around the kitchen and then stopped working, ruining the celebrations. I’ve now gone into the store and I’m livid. The manager was so rude – pointed to the “no refunds” sign, said, “Too bad, so sad,” laughed at me and walked away. I want a refund instead as I’m concerned that everything in the store is dodgy and will break. What are my rights to a refund? – Susan, Queensland
That must have been frustrating for you and your son when the appliance didn’t work. Fortunately, you do have rights and you’ll probably be pleased to know that “no refunds” signs are illegal.
The Australian Consumer Law automatically gives you rights when you purchase goods from businesses in Queensland. These consumer guarantees protect purchasers of goods worth less than $40,000, or more than $40,000 if they are used for personal or household purposes.
The seller must guarantee the product:
• Is safe, free from defects and durable.
• Does everything you would expect it to, everything you were told it would do and any purpose you made the seller aware you needed it to do.
• Matches the description of the sample you were shown, on the advertisement, packaging or as described by the seller.
• Is owned by the seller completely so that when you buy it you have full ownership with no one able to take this from you.
• Meets any extra promises made by the seller about what the product would do or its quality (e.g. lifetime warranty).
• Will have spare parts and repair services available for a reasonable length of time after you purchased it.
Goods must be of acceptable quality, fit for purposes and accurately described. It doesn’t matter that you purchased the appliance from a kiosk as the guarantees apply whether the purchase was done in-store or online.
This means that the business cannot deny your legal rights as you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement of the appliance as it sounds like it’s faulty.
A business is not able to change these consumer guarantees. So, any “no refund” or “exchange only on sale items” signs are unlawful as it implies that if the item is defective, a refund will not be offered.
Businesses are permitted to have a ‘no refunds’ policy if someone has simply changed their mind.
Whether the problem is minor or major will determine the remedy you’re entitled to. If it is considered a minor problem then the business can give you a free repair rather than a replacement or refund.
You can ask for a replacement or refund if the problem with the appliance is major. A major problem is when the item:
• Has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it.
• Is substantially unfit for its common purposes or doesn’t do what you asked for and cannot be easily fixed with a reasonable time.
• Is significantly different from the sample or description.
• Is unsafe.
As there were sparks coming from the appliance, it sounds like it is unsafe and you would be entitled to a replacement or refund.
You should keep your receipt as proof of purchase or, if you’ve lost it, show a bank statement to prove the purchase.
You should contact the business again and keep a record of any paperwork, and conversations you have with them.
If the business still refuses a refund then consider lodging a ‘chargeback’ request with your credit card provider if you paid by credit card. If your bank agrees to the chargeback, it will attempt to recover the money from the retailer’s bank on your behalf.
This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor.
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