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As a $15.6 billion dollar industry and growing at a rate of 16.5% annually, online shopping in Australia is changing the face of retail trade and significantly shifting the way consumers make transactions. Consumers are not only seeking variety, but also benefiting from lower prices. As a consumer, all your usual consumer rights apply when you shop online with an Australian business online. This article sets out you should look out for when you finalise your online shopping cart and enter in your credit card information.

Buying from a Private Seller online

When you purchase goods from an individual or private seller, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) does not apply if the selling of the item is not in the course of “trade or commerce” of their business. This definition means in the course of a supplier’s or manufacturer’s commercial activity. However, you will be entitled to the guarantee of title for the goods. What does this mean?

Let’s say someone with the eBay username dave009 is selling his used car spark plugs and he guarantees they are in new condition. You buy these spark plugs at an auction or at an agreed purchase price for your car as you have been advised by your mechanic they are faulty. In this case, as dave009 does not usually sell spark plugs or car parts in trade or commerce or in the normal course of his business, the ACL does not apply to your purchase and dave009 does not need to replace the spark plugs if you find them to be faulty later on.

In a second scenario, you have bought a delightful KitchenAid mixer from user kitchencapers57 online. You received the mixer in time to make cupcakes for your daughter’s birthday however the mixer has only come with one beater, instead of two. Lucky for you, you find out that kitchencapers57 normally sells kitchen item in the course of their usual business. You will be entitled to return faulty goods under the ACL.

Buying from a Marketplace Apps and Websites

New marketplace apps for online shopping are emerging. eBay and Etsy come to mind in this marketplace sphere. What do you do if you bought something on a marketplace that is not as described, or faulty?

In this instance, the Website’s Policy for dispute resolution would be followed. This legal document has been agreed to in the Terms and Conditions when the user registered an account. However if this fails, you are then left to fend for yourself as there are no ACL rights afforded to private online sellers.

In the instance of eBay, you can refer to their own resolution centre. eBay’s Resolution Centre acts as the ultimate mediator between buyers and seller, encouraging users’ issues to be resolved through their channel.

At the end of the day whether it is dave009 or kitchencapers57, online users are often reasonable, wanting to avoid bad ratings and able to sell again. If you are concerned about your rights as a seller or buyer, our online lawyers can assist you.


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