The vast majority of staff at Australia's major electronics retailers are pretty clueless when it comes to consumer rights, according to a new investigation by CHOICE. The consumer watchdog discovered widespread violations of Australian consumer law across 85 per cent of Harvey Norman, The Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi stores around the country.
During its investigation, CHOICE visited 80 Harvey Norman, The Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi stores across all Australian states and territories while posing as regular customers inquiring about the return of big ticket items. A whopping 85 per cent of sales staff were found to have limited or no understanding of their obligations under Australian consumer law.
In addition, every staff member that CHOICE spoke to attempted to sell an extended warranty, despite the fact that Australian retailers can’t impose an arbitrary period on when warranty support is available — instead, goods are expected to operate for a reasonable length of time.
Salespeople also downplayed the store's responsibility should a big ticket item cease to function after the manufacturer’s one-year warranty period, claiming that any repair and returns would be out of the store’s hands.
“The advice given by major electronics retailers flies in the face of the ACL," CHOICE said in a statement. "The fact that 85% of sales staff got it wrong and 100% offered an extended warranty is very concerning. Consumers need to be wary of warranty advice they are given in-store.
“Consumers should not be fooled into purchasing extended warranties they don’t need and we’d like to see the ACCC and fair trading bodies investigate these breaches.”
If we were one of these retailers, it would be time to start sweating: the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently fined HP $3 million for misleading consumers over their warranty rights.
CHOICE also released the following tips and facts to help educate consumers about their right to a refund:
- If a product is not of acceptable quality the retailer can’t charge you for fixing it.
- Retailers can’t just refer you to the manufacturer. They’re obliged to resolve your issue.
- If the problem is ‘major’, you can ask for a refund or replacement rather than a repair.
- You should be informed if a replacement is second-hand or if they’ve used refurbished parts to repair it.
- Repairs must be made within a reasonable time. Mobile phones and fridges, for instance, must be given high priority, or you can demand a replacement.
- You don’t have to return a product in its original packaging, and if you’ve lost your receipt you can use the following as proof of purchase: a credit card statement that itemises goods, a confirmation or receipt number for a phone or internet transaction, a warranty card showing the date, price and place of purchase; or the serial or production number if it’s stored on the retailer’s computer.
You can find out more about Australia's current consumer laws via our ACL guide.
See also: A Guide To The New Australian Consumer Protection Laws | Shonky Awards 2013: CHOICE Shames The Worst Products Of The Year | Ask LH: Can Apple Refuse To Deal With A Customer Complaint Without An Appointment?