The twentieth century saw an explosion in domestic appliances. From H. Cecil Booth’s engine powered vacuum cleaner, first patented in 1903, to today’s robotic vacuum cleaners, the market has increased exponentially. In spite of these changes, the issues that retailers of domestic appliances must consider have not, including legal considerations. If you retail household appliances, this article details the legal considerations that are relevant to your business.

If you are a domestic appliance retailer, the legal considerations of which you need to be aware include:

  • Employment issues;
  • Regulation of trading hours; and
  • Consumer Law obligations.

Employment Matters

Like most retail outlets, the employees of domestic appliance stores fall within the ambit of the General Retail Industry Award. As an employer, you need to be aware of the award and what it requires of all employers.

The award applies nationally and covers issues such as penalty rates, annual leave entitlements, proper scheduling and allocated breaks for staff on the job. The award prescribes minimum standards for employees. That means you have to meet all of your obligations under it.

Most importantly, domestic appliance retailers need to know that their workers are entitled to penalty rates in certain situations. For example, full-time or part-time staff must receive a 25% loading for any hours worked after 6 pm on a weekday or any ordinary hours worked on a Saturday. All of your staff, including casual employees, should receive a 100% penalty payment for working on Sundays. That increases to 150% on public holidays.

As an employer, you also have legal obligations other than ensuring your staff receive their correct entitlements. Your employees have the right to work in a safe workplace which is free from harassment, discrimination or bullying. You need to have procedures in place in your store to deal with any such potential claims on the part of employees.

You need to ensure that you make all appropriate superannuation contributions for your staff. As your employees fall under a federal award, they can choose their super fund. However, if your employees are in Australia on a temporary working visa, you do not need to offer them the choice of super fund. Nonetheless, these employees retain the right to ask you for a standard choice form. These forms are available on the website for the Australian Taxation Office.

Retail Trading Hours

All Australian states and territories regulate retail trading hours. These restrictions were imposed historically to protect time for religious observance. Today, regulations are kept in place to assist those smaller domestic appliance businesses who would otherwise be unable to compete with the larger retailers.

The question of whether these regulations will affect your business and the extent of that impact depends on where you trade and the size of your store.

In the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, retail trading hours are deregulated. However, every state has its separate retail trading scheme. For example, in Western Australia, the Retail Trading Hours Act 1987 (WA) governs all retail stores south of the 26th parallel. It does not include restaurants, cafes and takeaway food shops. The legislation works around types of stores. There are five main types of stores:

  • General Retail Stores;
  • Small retail shops;
  • Special retail outlets;
  • Service or filling stations; or
  • Motor Vehicle Shops/Car Yards.

All stores are considered to be general retail outlets unless they apply for a different classification. Each type of store has its permissible trading hours. For example, all general retail shops must close on Christmas Day, Anzac Day and Good Friday.

As mentioned above, regulations for retail trading hours are state specific. You will need to check details with your state government authority. That information will tell you when you can trade. With information on wages and penalty rates from the award, you can then establish when you are financially able to open.

Consumer Issues

As a retailer, you fall within the ambit of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) (Cth). The ACL provides certain consumer guarantees that you must honour. You will also need to provide any appropriate remedies.

Your products must meet all safety guidelines, and you will need to be able to substantiate any product claims made. If you need general guidance about your consumer law obligations, the website for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is an excellent resource.

Key Takeaways

Operating a business is complex. If you have legal queries specific to your store, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced lawyer. Contact LegalVision’s business lawyers to assist you. Questions? Call us on 1300 544 755 or contact us on this page.

Carole Hemingway

Next Steps

If you would like further information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please get in touch using the form on this page.