We all know one or two Latin phrases. Carpe Diem – Seize the day, and Caesar’s immortal proclamation to the Roman Senate after his conquest of Pharnace – Veni Vidi Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered). Less familiar to us is Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium – For every wrong the law provides a remedy. If you’re a consumer interested in what options you may have against a manufacturer, supplier or importer, this article covers consumer remedies available in Australia.

What is a Remedy?

Remedies are an important legal construct to enforce a right or redress and prevent the infringement of a right. In the context of consumer law, it is the attempt to rectify a fault, deficiency or failure to meet an obligation. For example, if a business breaches a Consumer Guarantee, a consumer becomes entitled to a remedy.

This definition succinctly answers the question of when a customer has a remedy: only when a business fails to meet their right or obligation. Without an obligation or right, there can be no remedy. While this sounds simple, it is not always uncomplicated. Understandably, emotions can sometimes run high.

The Consumer Law Context

The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) provides certain guarantees to purchasers regarding the provision of goods and services. These are known as the Consumer Guarantees. The legislation specifies which remedy applies when businesses breach their obligations.

If you would like to know more about the Consumer Guarantees, the website for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is an excellent resource.

However, there are defined situations in which there is no remedy for a consumer against a supplier of a good or service. For the clarity of the discussion, it is best to consider these situations as occurring either:

  • When a business breaches a Consumer Guarantee; or
  • When a business has not failed to meet a Consumer Guarantee

When a Business breaches a Consumer Guarantee

  • In certain circumstances, a customer is not entitled to a remedy against a supplier of a good or service even though they have failed to meet their consumer guarantee(s)

This happens when:

  1. Someone else said or did something that caused the supplier not to fulfil the customer guarantees regarding the good or service, excluding the supplier’s agents or employees; or
  2. A supplier did not meet their obligations under the consumer guarantees in the provision of a good or service because of something beyond human control. The act or event beyond human control must occur after provision or supply of the product or service.

For example, a couple contracts with a painter to paint the exterior of their house within three weeks. However, rain falls nearly every day of those three weeks. The job takes five weeks to complete. There is no remedy available because the weather is beyond the painter’s control.

When a supplier has not breached a Consumer Guarantee

A customer has no remedy where their consumer guarantees are not in issue.

No supplier is obliged to give a consumer a remedy if they have changed their mind about a good or service. In this instance, there is no remedy because there is no right at stake. The good is not defective in any way. It is simply no longer to the taste of the consumer.

However, a supplier might have and advertise a store policy in cases where customers change their mind. For example, a store might offer a credit note or provide a refund. If that is the case, the store is obliged to honour that policy.

If a person receives a good or service as a gift, they have the same rights and responsibilities as the purchaser. As such, they have the same remedies as consumers who directly purchase.

If you would like more general information about when a customer is not entitled to a remedy, visit the ACCC website. Contact LegalVision’s advertising, media and consumer lawyers to assist you. Questions? Call us on 1300 544 755.

Carole Hemingway

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