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Basic consumer rights

In Queensland, there are some basic rights covering the purchase of goods and services.

If you have a dispute with a trader over the purchase of goods or services, you can:

You should get legal advice.

Related publications: 
Consumer and trader disputes

When buying goods and services, they should be:

  • of a reasonable quality and free from defects
  • the same as what was described to you, or the same as any sample you were shown
  • fit for the purpose for which it was intended.

Traders are breaking the law if they use misleading or deceptive practices to sell goods and services, including:

  • misleading advertising (eg advertising something that isn’t available for sale or not available at the advertised price)
  • misleading representations about goods (eg telling a customer that a particular item has some quality, which it doesn’t)
  • giving the impression that goods are made by a particular manufacturer or in a particular country when they are not.

Getting a refund

Anything bought new from a store or business shouldn’t be defective. If you’ve bought defective goods, or it becomes defective within a short period of time after purchase (and is unfit for its purpose), you can get a refund even if there’s a sign saying “no refund”.

You can get a refund if you paid by cash or credit, but cash refunds are only available if you paid in cash. You can’t get a refund if you changed your mind, are responsible for the fault in the goods or you realised you could have got them cheaper elsewhere.

If you’re told of the defect at the time of purchase and you still buy the product, then you’ve accepted the goods in their current condition and they can’t be refunded due to the defect.

You may choose to accept an exchange of goods or repairs covered under the manufacturer’s warranty instead of a refund, but you can insist on a refund if the goods are defective.

If the store or business refuses to refund your money for the defective goods or won’t make an exchange that you are happy with, then you may consider applying to the QCAT. You should get legal advice.

Defective services or repairs

The law protects consumers in agreements for services or repairs. It requires that the work done won’t be defective and that any materials used will be of an appropriate standard. 

If you have received defective work, then you should first approach the trader to fix the problem. You can’t start legal action against them unless they’ve been given a reasonable opportunity to fix the issue.

You should get legal advice before cancelling any agreement for services or repairs, as not all defective work will justify the agreement being cancelled. 

If you can’t reach a satisfactory arrangement with the trader, you can make a:

Industry bodies

Some industry groups will help consumers solve problems with traders if they‘re members. You can ask the trader whether they belong to an industry body or group.

Office of Fair Trading (OFT)

The OFT acts on complaints by consumers about traders' activities. They won’t investigate or negotiate on behalf of every consumer who makes a complaint.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

The ACCC can act on complaints by consumers about companies' activities. They will not investigate or negotiate on behalf of every consumer who makes a complaint.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)

If your claim for repair, refund or payment is against a trader (ie a business or company) and is less than $25,000 you can make a claim in the QCAT.

The tribunal deals with disputes between consumers and traders for a one-off filing fee. You don’t need a lawyer in the tribunal but you should get legal advice before making a claim.

Appeals are only available in particular circumstances.

The time limit for starting a claim is 6 years from the date the dispute occurred—any time delays may affect the success of the claim.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if:

  • you’re considering applying to the QCAT to resolve a dispute with a trader for a refund, exchange, repair or payment for defective goods or services
  • you’re thinking about cancelling an agreement for services or repairs.

Get legal advice

We may give legal advice on consumer disputes. Our Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) may provide specialist legal advice on consumer disputes if products have been sold using high pressure sales tactics (eg door-to-door sales).

The following organisations may be able to give legal advice.

Caxton Legal Centre Consumer Law Service gives free specialist legal advice to people with consumer and consumer credit legal problems, including loans, bankruptcy, debt collection, mortgage brokers and financial advisors.

Gladstone Community Advisory Service gives free legal advice about consumer matters.

Cairns Community Legal Centre - Consumer Law Service gives legal help for socially and financially disadvantaged Queenslanders in the areas of consumer credit matters, consumer product or service disputes, consumer debt matters, bankruptcy and other consumer law matters.

LawRight Mental Health Law Practice gives legal advice for people with mental illness on civil law issues including credit and debt law issues.

Students Legal Service - University of Queensland (UQ) gives free legal advice to UQ students, including advice about consumer matters and responding to letters of demand.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides information about unfair market practices, industry codes, product safety, product labelling and price monitoring; and regulates industries including telecommunications, gas, and electricity. They also provide the SCAMwatch service to help consumers to recognise, avoid and report scams.

Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) administer the regulatory system of consumer protection for a range of financial services.

Office of Fair Trading (OFT) gives information and help to the public on a wide range of consumer related issues.

Energy and Water Ombudsman offers a free service to help resolve disputes with electricity, gas or water suppliers.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) provide information and makes decisions about consumer and trader disputes.

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has a free alternative dispute resolution scheme for unresolved complaints about phone or internet services.

Related links and information
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