Right to return and the Australian Consumer Law

By Rochelle Manderson


Regular readers of my blog will recall my passion for Australian Consumer Law (ACL), so in this blog we will be discussing your rights for return and exchange of goods, when you can return goods, who to return them to, and what you can receive as a refund or exchange. These rights apply to the consumer who has purchased the item, or to the recipient of a gift of the item.


The ACL includes consumer rights to return items that are not fit for purpose, are not as described, or not of acceptable quality. They bind any retailer, be them a small store or a large chain, as well as second hand stores and opportunity shops. However, they do not bind private sales. They cannot be contacted out of, so any signage or fine print on your receipt stating no refund or no return/exchange is illegal and not enforceable.



When can you return an item?

You can return an item if it is not as described. This includes any description on the packaging, or any description given to you by the seller of the item. Goods must be as described pursuant to s 56 of the ACL.


Goods can be returned if they are not fit for purpose. This includes their usual purpose, and any purpose described by the seller at the time of sale. This also includes any statement made at the time of the sale, so if you make it clear to the seller your purpose for the goods, and they indicate the item is fit for that purpose and it is not, you can return the item.


Goods can be returned if they are not of acceptable quality. Acceptable quality is described under s 54 (2) of the ACL, and is defined as what a reasonable consumer, fully appointed with the goods, would consider to be or regard as acceptable. Essentially it is a reasonable person test. The goods must be acceptable in their appearance, must be free of defects, must be safe, and must be durable. Durable will depend on the type of goods you have purchased and the price you have paid for the item. For example, you would expect a large appliance to last years, while you would only expect a scented candle to last days to weeks, depending on the size and regularity of use.


If you have purchased the goods from a second hand store, their durability will be less than if purchased new, and any obvious defects at the time of purchase will not allow you to request a refund. If they were clearly visible or disclosed to you at the time of sale, you are stuck with that defect.


It the defect in the item is a major failure, that being a reasonable person would not have purchased the item had they known of the defect, it is the consumers choice as to whether they want a repair, a refund or the item replaced. If the defect is not considered a major failure, it is the store or manufacturers choice to repair, refund or replace. This must occur within a reasonable time.


What do you need to return your item?

You do not need original packaging or a receipt, you only need proof of the transaction, such as a credit card statement or product serial number. This falls under s100 (4) of the ACL. This section also allows the consumer to choose whether they return the item to the seller or to the manufacturer.


Are there any limitations?

There are some limitations to the ACL. For example, if you damaged the item yourself, you are not entitled to return it for a refund. For example, if you purchase a $10.00 dog bed and Fido destroys it overnight, leaving your living area looking like snow has fallen, it is your loss. Or the ceramic plate you dropped on your kitchen floor, it is also your loss.

If you are unreasonable in your purpose. You cannot buy a child’s tricycle, tell the seller you want a tricycle that can also fly, and then return it when it cannot fly. Finally, if you have simply changed your mind, you do not have a right to return he product under the ACL. However, it may be worth approaching the store to see if they will allow a return or exchange in that situation, as they may do so as a sign of good will.


In conclusion

You have the legal right to return defective goods to the seller or manufacturer under the ACL, however, reasonable is the word! If you fall within the jurisdiction of the ACL, and you satisfy the requirements described above, you are entitled to a return – repair, refund or replace.


Should you have any questions regarding ACL, we recommend you contact us on 1300 043 103 to make an appointment in any one of our offices located in Melbourne, Nagambie, Romsey, Wallan and now in Seymour.