Dear Lifehacker, Last year, I bought a Nike+ FuelBand online. I absolutely loved it, but the button has now broken, making it virtually useless. I know I should be entitled to a repair or replacement under Australian consumer law as that’s a “major failure”, but Nike won’t help because it doesn’t sell them in Australia.
Unfortunately, the online store I purchased it from has not responded to any of my attempts to contact them. What else can I do? Will contacting the ACCC or NSW Fair Trading help? Any advice appreciated. Thanks, Fuelled By Rage
The simple answer: if the actual operator of the site isn’t based in Australia, unfortunately there isn’t much you can do. You’re correct that the consumer law applies to the sale in theory and that it’s the seller’s responsibility to deal with defects, but there’s not much that can be done in a practical, legal sense to enforce that right with an offshore operation.
As consumer regulator the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) dryly puts it on its site:
If you buy from an online seller based overseas, you should be aware that you may experience practical difficulties in obtaining a remedy from them.
If the site you purchased from is operated by an Australian business, then complaining to the relevant fair trading body in your state definitely makes sense. For an overseas operator, while it’s worth persisting with sending complaint letters, and possibly complaining via Twitter and other social networks, you probably have to face the fact that your device is now a dud.
The lesson? While buying online can be useful both in saving money and obtaining goods that haven’t been released here, it does increase the risk slightly. For pricier goods, it’s worth hunting around to find an online store with an Australian base, even if they are shipping grey import items. That gives you a greater level of protection.
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