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Choice investigation brings extended warranties into question

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tvcustomerA Choice investigation has uncovered an alarming level of misunderstanding at electrical retailers when it comes to Australian Consumer Law and extended warranties.

Two Choice journalists posed as regular customers looking to buy a big screen TV for around $2500.

But when asked about returning these big ticket items, 85 per cent of sales staff at some of the biggest Australian electrical retailer incorrectly stated that the store had no responsibility after the manufacturer’s warranty ran out.

Consumer protection laws introduced in 2011 says the customer has a right to a refund, repair or replacement through the store for a reasonable time after purchase.

This time period should take into account the type of product purchased and the price of the item.

In other words, a customer who pays $1800 for a TV and it stops working two or three years later they still have rights because there is a reasonable expectation that a product of this type and price would work for a few years.

This point also brings into question the extended warranties which are often offered to customers at the time of sale.

Choice’s investigation found stores were offering these extended warranties as a way to protect customers when the consumer protection laws state they are, in most cases, clearly unnecessary.

“The advice given by major electronics retailers flies in the face of the Australian Consumer Law,” says Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“The fact that 85 per cent of sales staff got it wrong and 100 per cent offered an extended warranty is very concerning.

“Consumers need to be wary of warranty advice they are given in-store.

“Consumers should not be fooled into purchasing extended warranties they don’t need and we’d like to see the ACCC and fair trading bodies investigate these breaches.”  

Here are Choice’s tips for a customer’s rights to a refund:

* If a product is not of acceptable quality the retailer can’t charge you for fixing it.

* Retailers can’t just refer you to the manufacturer. They’re obliged to resolve your issue.

* If the problem is ‘major’, you can ask for a refund or replacement rather than a repair.

* You should be informed if a replacement is second-hand or if they’ve used refurbished parts to repair it.

* Repairs must be made within a reasonable time. Mobile phones and fridges, for instance, must be given high priority, or you can demand a replacement.

* You don’t have to return a product in its original packaging, and if you’ve lost your receipt you can use the following as proof of purchase: a credit card statement that itemises goods; a confirmation or receipt number for a phone or internet transaction; a warranty card showing the date, price and place of purchase; or the serial or production number if it’s stored on the retailer’s computer.

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