Sunday, 13 December 2015 23:20

48% of retailers make bad CHOICE with consumer law advice

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Consumer advocate Choice says 48% of the electronic retailers it ‘shadow shopped’ failed the consumer law test.

A shadow shop of 109 Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and the Good Guys stores by consumer advocate across the country by consumer advocacy group CHOICE has found nearly half of the salespeople contacted didn’t understand basic rights to a refund for faulty products.

CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey said: “Although it’s almost five years after the introduction of Australian Consumer Law that provides consumers with the right to a repair, replacement or a refund, salespeople at some of the country’s biggest retailers are potentially misleading consumers,”

CHOICE’s shadow shoppers posed as customers looking to buy a big-screen TV priced between $2000 and $3000 and asked if the store would take the TV back to get it repaired if it broke down around two years after purchase.

“We found 48% of the retailers contacted failed to offer our shoppers their basic consumer rights, which is a staggering failure rate so long after these consumer protections were introduced in Australia,” said Godfrey.

“Under the Australian Consumer Law you can return a faulty TV to the store or contact the manufacturer for a reasonable period after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.

“Even though the TVs our shoppers were looking to purchase come with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, the Consumer Law gives you rights over and above the limited warranty period.

“As the peak retail season ramps up, it’s time electronics retailers got up to speed with this basic consumer right. Consumer guarantees are not limited to a set period of time. They last for the amount of time reasonable to expect the product to last depending on factors such as the nature and price of the item purchased.

“The salespeople should have agreed to take the TV back and assess on a case-by-case basis whether or not it would be covered.”

More below, please read on!

The most common failures by the salespeople were telling Choice’s shoppers:

  • They couldn’t go to the retailer, only to the manufacturer
  • The TV would not be covered as the manufacturer’s warranty or the voluntary warranty period is expired
  • The store would accept the TV but any repairs would be at the shopper’s expense
  • They would only be covered if they purchased an extended warranty

“We also found that 95% of the salespeople tried to sell an extended warranty to our shoppers. So if you’re tempted by an extended warranty, it’s worth reading the fine print to ensure you are getting some value over and above the rights you have under the Consumer Law,” Godfrey concluded.

CHOICE says it has referred six Harvey Norman stores to the ACCC.

There’s no word on whether Choice has ‘shadow shopped’ any of the online stores to see if they can pass the same test - hopefully Choice will be conducting this kind of test, too.

For plenty more detail on Choice’s retail store shadow shopping, check out its article here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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