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Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:35

Warranty not a priority for the majority Featured

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Opinion: Your car, TV, washer, printer, mobile phone, computer, tablet, smartwatch breakdowns just outside of warranty. Are you still covered?

Do you throw it away and vow never to buy that brand again or do you understand your rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and stand up for them?

I don’t know about you but (a) I am tired of hearing about retailers and manufacturers avoiding warranty obligations and (b) of sheep like consumers accepting that.

The ACCC has been busy identifying the bad guys and there are some big names amongst the offenders (and some of these are severe breaches of the ACL: Harvey Norman (six stores but endemic with many retailers); drip pricing for internet purchases; Misleading packaging (Nurofen had the same ingredients, Uncle Tobys for misleading statements); LG (and many others) for saying its warranty conditions superseded the ACL; extended warranty shams (both insurance underwritten and self-covered by retailers); non-compliance with Australian Standards (quality not fit for purpose); collusive conduct (retail price fixing, exclusive models to stop competitive shopping); price matching offers that were not honoured (due to fine print); phoenix companies (that invalidate warranties); and ‘no refund’ signs. That is just in the last couple of months!

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been given far reaching powers under the ACL – that protects all Australians. These powers apply to any product sold for personal or household use and are in addition to any stated warranties. Read on about your rights.

  • You take an electronic device back to the retailer. They state you must take it to the manufacturer – WRONG the retailer sold it and must arrange repair, replacement, or refund at the purchaser’s sole discretion and at no cost to you. You may even be entitled to compensation for loss of use
  • You cannot easily take a product back to the retailer that delivered it in the first place and it says you must pay for return freight either to it or the manufacturer. WRONG - the retailer must pay for collection and return unless the product is subsequently found not to have a defect
  • You threw away the original packaging but warranty states you must return it in same. WRONG – it’s the product, not the packaging that it warranted
  • You are told that an item has 12 months’ warranty – WRONG. The ACL says that all products must be of acceptable quality – fit for purpose and provide service for a reasonable amount of time commensurate with the purchase price. For example, a $1000 smartphone may be covered by a 12 months’ manufacturer’s warranty but you could reasonably expect it to last 3-4 years and non-replaceable batteries cannot be excluded as ‘consumables’. It could be argued that a sub $100 smartphone was a ‘disposable’
  • The retailer or manufacturer requires ‘original proof of purchase’ e.g. a receipt. WRONG – any form of proof it fine – credit card statement, quote from the supplier (and subsequent purchase) or anything else. However, it’s a good idea to save proof of purchase anyway.
  • The retailer has a no refund policy. WRONG – you can insist on that if you wish, or if you feel that a warranty replacement will not cure the issue - the goods are not for stated fit for purpose –demand a refund
  • The retailer claims that you need to purchase an extended warranty to have goods repaired outside of manufacturer’s warranty. WRONG- extended warranties, whether underwritten by an insurance company or the store are unnecessary as you are covered by the reasonable use and lifetime expectations.

“The ACCC believes that many consumers purchase extended warranties because they do not realise the extent of the protections provided by the Consumer Law. It is very important that extended warranty products being sold to consumers should clearly identify the benefits they are providing that go beyond those rights and remedies already available to consumers and that representations made at point of sale do not mislead consumers about the extent of the benefits being acquired,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Frankly I have heard so much B/S from retailers that at the first sign of resistance I take off the kid gloves and don’t even bother to be polite any more. “I know my rights under the ACL,” is usually all I have to say. And it that does not work I pull up the ACCC’s website on my smartphone and show them.

But to be fair the ACL legislation only started in January 2011 and retailers face issues with high staff turnover, lack of training in consumer rights, and even though the ACL is five years old many think that a manufacturer’s warranty and many of the old practices are still relevant. WRONG – Just inform them of your rights and if you have issues call the ACCC on 1300 302 502 or lodge a complaint on-line – it guarantees a quick response.

And to specifically to electronic and IT items

In the old days stated warranty periods were finite. If something broke down one day outside warranty -tough.

Today you are protected by the reasonableness clause. What is reasonable is a major conundrum.

For starters a 12 month’s warranty on most items simply does not make the grade.

For items under say $500 - lower cost tablets, smartphones, headphones, Bluetooth speakers, routers, monitors, printers and more it is reasonable to expect that these should last a few years. As a rule of thumb if something breaks down – and it is a manufacturing defect, not wear and tear related – then you can argue that two years is appropriate.

For items over $500 and say up to $4,000 – tablets, smartphones, computers, printers, and large monitors then it is reasonable to expect these should last at least 3 to 4 years. Pre-2011 manufacturers were encouraged to keep parts for around 5 years – that was when you could repair things!

Consumables and fair wear and tear are contentious items. Smartphone batteries for example – especially where they are non-replaceable should last the practical life of the device. If after 12 months, you can prove a loss of battery life - below what may be reasonably expected – then you are entitled to ask the manufacturer to replace the battery. Fair wear and tear is deterioration of appearance due to normal use – paint being rubbed off, knocks and dents etc. These are not covered if the item still works as promised – unless it is a manufacturers defect.

Under ACL there is no such thing as an altruistic gesture by a manufacturer or retailer to replace, repair or refund – it is your right.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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