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Friday 24 December 2021

Stand up for your rights: young Australians lead the way

Australians are notoriously bad at standing up for their consumer rights.

They'd rather accept shoddy service, or a product that doesn't work properly, than make a fuss.

Research from consumer organisation Choice found that just 38% of Australians have asked for a refund, replacement or repair in the last five years because a product did not work or was not what they asked for.

And with Australians expected to spend a record $21 billion in stores and online during the post-Christmas sales, Choice is encouraging consumers not to put up with dodgy products and to feel confident in asking for a refund, repair or replacement.

Young Australians aged 18-34 are the most likely (49%) of any age group to ask for a refund, while just 24% of older Australians aged 65-75 had asked for a remedy in the same situation.

"While we're happy to see 49% of young Australians leading the charge when asking for a refund, replacement or repair, we want all Australians to feel just as confident in exercising their consumer rights when they need to," says Choice director of campaigns and communications Erin Turner.

"By knowing your rights when a product you bought doesn't work, or wasn't what you asked for, you can avoid additional financial strain," says Choice managing editor Margaret Rafferty.

So if you've splashed some cash on gifts at Christmas or are thinking of picking up some bargains in the Boxing Day sales, Choice has some valuable tips.

Australian businesses are all bound by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) which sets out consumer rights.

You're entitled to ask for a repair, replacement or refund if 
# a product isn't fit for purpose
# a product doesn't match the description
# a product is significantly different from what you expected
# the business made extra promises it hasn't kept
# spare parts and repairs aren't available
# the business didn't have the right to sell you the goods.

Similar guarantees apply to services, which must:
# be performed with proper care and skill
# be fit for a particular purpose or achieve the result you expected
# be delivered within a reasonable time, or by the end date in a contract

These guarantees cover gifts, online products and services from all Australian businesses and sale items are covered, too.

Keeping receipts will help smooth the returns process if you need to take something back.

"Keeping a record of your purchase is always important, especially for high-value purchases," says Turner.

"In the worst case scenario, a company or manufacturer might not respect your consumer rights and you may need to go to a court or a tribunal. If this happens, good record keeping will increase your chances of a good result."

Signs that say things like "No refunds", "No refunds on sale items" or "Exchange or credit note only for return of sale items" aren't legal. So don't shop at places that display those signs.

But also don't take the mickey.

If the item you've bought isn't faulty but you've changed your mind, found it at a cheaper price elsewhere or it's an unwanted Christmas or birthday gift, Australian retailers are not under any legal obligation to give you a refund or exchange. Nor should they.

Image: Maksim Chernyshev,

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