EOFY guide: How to use your consumer rights

Looking for a bargain this EOFY? Make sure you go in prepared with your rights.

Looking for a bargain this EOFY? Make sure you go in prepared with your rights.

End of Financial Year (EOFY) sales are upon us and retailers across the country are spruiking deals on major appliances, from fridges and dishwashers to televisions and kitchen tools.

But with the plethora of deals comes an equally large number of dodgy claims being made about extended warranties, and under what circumstances shoppers can get a refund.

Luckily, Australia has a comprehensive set of consumer laws designed to protect you this EOFY, provided you know enough about your rights to be able to use them effectively.

So let’s run through what you need to know before buying any product before July 1, whether that’s home office equipment or a new washing machine.

Unpacking your rights

Choice director of reviews and testing Matt Steen says the first thing consumers need to know is that Australian laws guarantee them a remedy for a product that experiences a major failure.

That’s when a product just doesn’t do the thing it’s advertised or supposed to do, Steen said.

“If the washing machine you buy doesn’t wash clothes, that’s a major failure,” he explained.

When this happens, you’re entitled to your choice of a refund, replacement or repair on the product; either from the retailer who sold it to you, or the manufacturer that sold it to them.

Retailers aren’t allowed to claim that only the manufacturer can deal with the problem, and likewise manufacturers can’t simply handball you to the retailer who sold you it, either.

“You have a right to go back to the retailer and say ‘this thing doesn’t work’,” Steen said.


But how long does that guarantee apply for?

Well, it’s not set in stone, thanks to some grey areas in consumer law that advocates have been calling on the government to tighten up.

You should have reasonable confidence that a major appliance should work for a number of years though, and even long past any manufacturer warranty date that might be applied.

That’s because, as Steen explained, the more you pay for a product the greater the expectation in consumer law that it should last longer and continue to do the job it was advertised to do.

“A manufacturer’s warranty is an indication of the confidence they have in their product, not an indication of how long it should last,” Steen said.

This is also a key reason that retailer add-ons such as extended warranties are often bad value, because consumer law protects you for free in most circumstances, if you know how to use it.

“[Extended warranties] cover you in a very small amount of circumstances … the way they work is they are a really good way for the store to make money,” Steen said.

Minor failures explained

Another common confusion customers experience with consumer law and faulty products are what’s called minor failures, which don’t rise to the level of a major fault we described earlier.

A minor fault could be a case where a washing machine won’t run a hot cycle, but will still do cold – the product still washes clothes, but it doesn’t do everything that was said on the tin.

In these cases, consumer law still applies but the retailer or manufacturer has additional options.

Namely, it’s up to them whether to refund, replace or try to repair the product, Steen explained.

“It’s up to the retailer to say, ‘we will get that repaired’,” he said.

Any product repair must be done in a timely fashion though and shouldn’t come with additional charges.

But it’s important to make sure you’re clear with the retailer about what you expect.

So if a repair has been suggested, then make sure to outline what date you want it done by.

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