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Whether you are a consumer or a business, you will inevitably enter into a number of dealings, with other entities, whether to purchase or provide goods or services. Whilst some businesses have stellar reputations, there are others with ruthless or dodgy business practices. For example, they may promise to provide a service and after receiving upfront payment from you, the service is inadequate or of a quality so poor you need to engage another service provider to fix it!

If you are a consumer who has entered into a transaction with a business, and the goods or services are faulty, are not of an acceptable quality or are not fit for the purpose they are supposed to have, you may have protection or recourse under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Rights under the ACL

If you are a consumer under the Australian Consumer Law, you have rights to ask for a repair, replacement or refund. These rights are called consumer guarantees and they apply automatically for products or services bought on or after 1 January 2011.

Who is a consumer?

A consumer is someone who acquires goods or services for a price that did not exceed $40,000, or acquired goods or services of a kind that are ordinarily acquired for personal, domestic or household use or consumption. This applies to businesses also.

Enforcing your consumer guarantee

If you are seeking to enforce your consumer guarantee, you should first contact the business which supplied the goods or services. If this doesn’t resolve the matter, you should consider contacting:

  • your local state and territory consumer protection agency;
  • Industry ombudsmen and dispute resolution (if relevant); and
    the ACCC.
  • You should also consider getting legal advice.

What else can I do to protect myself?

1. Search the business.

  • Many businesses have an online presence including on social media (e.g. Facebook, Google plus reviews). See if you can find reviews about the business. You can use other reviewers’ experience with the business as an indicator. Under the Australian Consumer Law, it is unlawful to make false or misleading testimonials.
  • You can also search whether the business has a registered Australian Business Number, or if they are a company, whether they are identified as such in the ASIC register.
  • Some types of work require the business to hold licences. If you’re still unsure, ask for a copy of these licences before you make any payment.

2. Review the contract or terms and conditions before signing and/or making payment.

3. Consult your local consumer protection agency (e.g. Consumer Affairs Victoria, Fair Trading NSW) may publish public warnings about individuals or entities engaging in unfair business practices. The ACCC also has a public warning notice register.

4. Check for warning signs.

  • Do your market research. Businesses may offer competitive quotes but if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Sometimes the business may want payment prior to delivery of goods. Whilst this may be typical of some industries, it is not the standard across all industries and can be unusual for large transactions.

Conclusion

Be weary of dodgy practices by businesses and conduct your due diligence. If you are unsure whether the consumer guarantees apply to you, contact the ACCC. Alternatively, seek legal advice! Our team of lawyers have extensive experience in the Australian Consumer Law and contracts for goods or services. Contact LegalVision on 1300 544 755 for a fixed fee quote today.

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