Consumer Watch with Cheryle Dennis: What to know about your rights on refunds, returns, repairs & gift cards

Cheryle DennisGeraldton Guardian
Consumers have rights when Christmas presents turn out to be faulty.
Camera IconConsumers have rights when Christmas presents turn out to be faulty. Credit: Fuse/Getty Images/Fuse

What happens when you don’t like the socks Grandma gives you for Christmas? Or what if Santa delivers your little one a broken toy?

Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), consumers have rights when it comes to gifts that are faulty, unsafe or not as described.

Australian retailers must offer a remedy such as a refund, replacement or repair, even if the gift was on sale.

If the problem is minor, a business can offer its choice of a remedy, but if the fault is major you get to choose. You do not have to accept a credit note instead of a refund and no longer having the packaging is not a reason to refuse you a remedy.

When it comes to making a claim on faulty gifts, proof of purchase is required. This can be a receipt (or photograph of), a credit or debit card statement, a lay-by agreement, a warranty card with details about the purchase or some combination of these which supports your claim.

So long as you can reasonably demonstrate that you or the gift-giver purchased an item, a business may be breaking the law if it denies your right to a refund, repair or replacement for an item that fails to meet a consumer guarantee.

But what about those socks from Grandma? If a gift is not your preferred colour, is the wrong size or you got the same gift twice, it’s considered a “change of mind” and is not covered by the ACL.

The business does not have to offer you any form of remedy, but if they choose to do so, it is out of their goodwill. For this reason, it is up to the business as to whether they will exchange it, offer a refund or provide store credit.

It’s important to know most gift cards and vouchers must have an expiry period of at least three years. This is the law. Gift vouchers are like cash — if you lose one, you can’t claim a replacement, so keep cards in a secure place until you are ready to go shopping.

Finally, if a gift failed to turn up in time for Christmas you may be entitled to a remedy, but it is best to contact the retailer to resolve the issue first before lodging a complaint with Consumer Protection.

If issues can’t be resolved with the retailer, then lodge a formal complaint on the Consumer Protection website. Enquiries can be made by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

Cheryle Dennis is acting senior regional officer for Consumer Protection in the Mid West

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