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Basic consumer rights 

Legal Information

As a consumer you have some automatic protections when you buy new goods from traders and when you buy services. Whatever you buy should be:

  • of reasonable quality and free from defects
  • the same as it has been described to you or the same as any sample you were shown
  • fit for the purpose which it is intended for.

Traders break the law if they use misleading or deceptive practices. This can include:

  • misleading advertising eg advertising something which is not available for sale or not available at the advertised price
  • misleading representations about goods such as telling a customer that a particular item has some quality which it does not
  • giving the impression that goods are made by a particular manufacturer or in a particular country when they are not.

Can I get a refund, an exchange or repairs if I have bought defective goods from a shop?

Anything you buy new from a shop should not be defective.

If you have bought something defective or it becomes defective within a short period of time and it is not fit for its purpose you are entitled to a refund from the shop where you bought it even if there is a sign saying no refund. You can get a refund if you paid by cash or credit but you can only get a cash refund if you paid by cash.

You cannot get a refund if you change your mind or are responsible for the fault in the goods or you realise you could have got them cheaper somewhere else.

If you are told of the defect at the time of purchase and you still buy the product then you have accepted the goods in that condition.

You may choose to accept an exchange of the goods or a repair under manufacturers warranty instead of a refund but you can insist on a refund when the goods are defective.

If the store refuses to refund your money for the defective goods or will not make an exchange that you are happy with, then you may consider applying to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). You should get legal advice.

What can I do if I have received defective services or repairs?

The law gives protection in agreements for services or repairs that the work and the materials used will not be defective.

If you have received defective work then you should approach the trader to fix the problem as you cannot start legal action against them unless they have been given a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem.

You should get legal advice before you try and cancel any agreement for services or repairs as not all defective work will justify you canceling the agreement.

What if I can't work the problem out with the trader?

If you can not reach satisfactory arrangements with the trader you may consider making a:

What do industry bodies do?

Some industry groups will help consumers solve problems with traders who are members. You can ask the trader whether they belong to a group like this.

What can the Office of Fair Trading do for me?

The Office of Fair Trading acts on complaints by consumers about traders' activities that amount to substantial non-compliance with legal requirements placed on traders. The Office of Fair Trading will not investigate or negotiate on behalf of every consumer who makes a complaint.

What can I do if I have been deceived about what I bought from a company?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) can act on complaints by consumers about companies' activities that amount to substantial non-compliance with legal requirements. The ACCC will not investigate or negotiate on behalf of every consumer who makes a complaint

When do I go to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a consumer dispute?

Provided your claim for repair or refund or payment is against a trader ie a business or company and is under $25,000 you can claim at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

The tribunal deals with disputes between consumers and traders for a one off filing fee. You do not need a lawyer in the tribunal but it is a good idea to get legal advice before making a claim.

Appeals are only available in particular circumstances.

The time limit for starting a claim is six years from the date the dispute happened. Delay may affect the success of the claim.

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Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if

  • you are considering applying to QCAT to resolve a dispute with a trader for refund, exchange, repair or payment for defective goods or services
  • you are thinking about cancelling an agreement for services or repairs, because not all defective work will justify you cancelling the agreement.
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Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice on consumer disputes. Our Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) may provide specialist legal advice on consumer disputes if products have been sold in circumstances where there have been high pressure sales tactics, such as in the case of door-to-door sales.

The following organisations may also be able to give legal advice on your matter.

Caxton Legal Centre Consumer Law Service provide 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 provide free legal advice about consumer matters.

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

QPILCH Self Representation Service (Federal) provides legal advice and assistance to people involved in civil proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court or Federal Court for matters involving bankruptcy and consumer and competition law. The service may also help with drafting documents and correspondence relating to your legal matter. They do not provide representation.

QPILCH Mental Health Law Practice provides legal advice to to people with a mental illness on civil law issues including credit/debt law issues.

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

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

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Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to assist with your matter. They do not provide 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. Also provide the SCAMwatch service to help consumers to recognise, avoid and report scams.

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

Office of Fair Trading provides 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 make decisions about consumer and trader disputes.

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman provides free alternative dispute resolution scheme for unresolved complaints about telephone or internet services.

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Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 1 December 2009 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.

Last modified: 23 April 2015 3:41PM
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Basic consumer rights