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What are your refund rights after the Christmas shopping rush

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Christmas had come and gone for another year but now is the time when some people need to head back to the shops for an exchange or refund. So what are our rights as a customer?

Australian customers are protected by the Australian Consumer Laws and this means you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement if the product you purchased doesn’t match the description, doesn’t do what it says it can do or just doesn’t work.

“Retailers are known for trying all manner of tricks to dance around your basic rights,” says Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“From displaying illegal no refund signs, fobbing you off to the manufacturer, forcing you to accept a shorter manufacturer’s warranty or insisting you return the faulty product in its original packaging, retailers have been known to roll out some of the oldest tricks in the book.”

A recent Choice survey of 109 Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys stores across Australia showed almost half of the salespeople didn’t understand the basic rights for a refund for faulty products.

So what are your rights as a consumer? Here are some tips:

*  Even if a store displays a “No Refund” sign it is meaningless – it’s actually against the law to display such a sign.

* If a product isn’t of acceptable quality, the retailer can’t charge you to fix it.

* Retailers can’t just refer you to the manufacturer. You are the store’s customer and they must act on your behalf.

* If the fault is “major”, you can ask for a refund or replacement rather than just a repair.

* If you have a bulky item like a TV or appliance that needs repair or replacement, the retailer should pay the transportation costs.

* You should be informed if a replacement is second-hand or if refurbished parts have been used.

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* Repairs must be made within a reasonable time – in days, not weeks.

* You can still return a faulty product even if you still don’t have the original packaging.

* If you’ve lost a receipt you can still show proof of purchase with a credit card statement, confirmation or receipt number from an Internet or phone transaction.

* Extended warranties are often not necessary as they may not cover much more than the Australian Consumer Law.

* Check the store’s refund or exchange policy before you buy the item. Some larger stores may give you a credit note or offer an exchange even if you change your mind.

* If you think you are entitled to a refund but the retailer still refuses to give you one, contact the Office of Fair Trading in your state or territory.

When is it NOT possible to get a refund or replacement:

* If you’ve misused the item and broken it as a result of that misuse.

* If you’ve simply changed your mind.

* If you’ve seen it cheaper elsewhere.