Buying goods and services

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    In Queensland, you can buy goods and services in person, online or over the phone, and laws and regulations protect you no matter how those goods and services are sold.

    You should always get a verbal or written agreement before buying goods or services from another person (a private sale) in person, online or over the phone.

    If you receive unsolicited goods, you may be able to keep them if they're not claimed within the recovery period.

    If you're being hassled in person, online or over the phone to enter into an unsolicited consumer agreement, you should be aware of your rights and responsibilities and how you should be treated.

    You should also protect yourself from scams such as pyramid selling schemes and other fraudulent activities.

    Private sales of goods and services

    A private sale is when you buy goods and services in person, online or over the phone from another person who isn't usually in the business of trading goods and services.

    Most consumer protection laws don't apply to private sales.

    A private sale creates a legally binding contract where the terms may be verbal, written or a combination of both.

    When buying goods or services online using a credit card, you may be able to stop payment if the goods or services aren't delivered, even if it was a private sale.

    When buying goods and services, the law says they must be fit for their purpose. How much you paid for them is relevant to whether they’re fit for purpose.

    Private sale agreements can often be hard to enforce as it can be difficult to prove what was agreed. Sometimes the goods or services are only for a small value and you'll need to consider whether it is worth taking legal action.

    Get legal advice before making an agreement for a private sale or if there's a dispute about an agreement.

    Unsolicited goods and services

    Unsolicited goods or services are those that you've not asked for or paid for.

    They can be delivered to you, even if you didn't ask for them. You don't have to pay for any goods or services received if you didn’t agree to buy them, and you don't have to pay for them to be returned.

    It's unlawful for a person or business to ask you to pay for unordered goods or services unless they have reasonable cause to believe they should be paid for them.

    If there's a dispute with a business or person demanding payment for unordered goods or services, they'll have to prove you agreed to buy the goods or services. Get legal advice.

    Keeping unordered goods

    If you receive unordered goods, the supplier can recover the goods from you—generally within 3 months from the day after the goods were received.

    If you've written to the supplier telling them you've received unsolicited goods, the recovery period will be reduced to 1 month, starting on the day after the notice was given.

    The notice must be in writing and must include:

    • your name and address
    • the address where the goods are being kept (not necessarily your own address)
    • a statement that the goods are unsolicited.

    If the supplier doesn't take any action to recover the goods within the recovery period, you may be able to keep the goods for free.

    During the recovery period, any unsolicited goods and services must be kept in a good condition and available for collection by the supplier. If you wilfully or unlawfully damage the goods during this time, you may have to pay compensation. Get legal advice.

    If you know the goods are meant for someone else (eg the package was clearly addressed to another person), these are not unsolicited goods and you're not allowed to keep them. 

    Unsolicited consumer agreements

    The Australian Consumer Law gives extra protections to people buying goods or services from ‘unsolicited consumer agreements’ (eg door-to-door sales or phone calls from telemarketers). These usually come from sales when the seller approaches you first rather than when you've contacted the seller with an interest in buying their goods or services.

    These rights cannot be waived (given away) by the consumer and it's unlawful for a supplier to try and persuade a consumer to do so.

    A consumer agreement is unsolicited if:

    • it's for the supply of goods and services and
    • it's been made over the phone or in a place other than the business or trade premises of the supplier and
    • you didn't invite the dealer to come to that place or to call you and
    • the price is more than $100.

    Common situations where you may enter into an unsolicited consumer agreement include:

    • a door-to-door salesperson coming to your house
    • phone calls from telemarketers
    • being approached by a salesperson in the common area of a shopping centre.

    It's not considered an unsolicited agreement if you've invited a salesperson to your house or asked them to phone you at a specific time to discuss buying the goods or services.

    Being contacted about unsolicited consumer agreements

    A salesperson can only contact you about unsolicited consumer agreements on:

    • weekdays between 9am and 6pm (8pm for telemarketing)
    • Saturdays between 9am and 5pm.

    They're not allowed to contact you on Sundays or public holidays.

    They can't call you if you're on the Do Not Call Register

    To stop door-to-door sellers knocking on your door get a "Do Not Knock" sticker from the Office of Fair Trading

    If you ask a salesperson to leave your home, they must do so immediately. If they're told to leave, they can't contact you again (on behalf of the same supplier) for at least 30 days.

    Cooling-off period

    Unsolicited agreements have a statutory cooling-off period, where you can terminate the agreement within 10 business days without penalty.

    In some situations, if the supplier breaches certain rules for unsolicited consumer agreements, the cooling off period may be extended to 3 or 6 months.

    To terminate the agreement within the cooling-off period, you must let the supplier know, either verbally or in writing (preferred).

    You can send a written notice to terminate by post, email, fax or hand delivered. There's no set form for this notice.

    Get legal advice if you're having problems terminating your agreement within the cooling-off period.

    Copies of the agreement

    The supplier must give you a written copy of the agreement once it's been made. For agreements made in person, a copy must be given to you immediately after it's been signed.

    For agreements made over the phone a copy must be given to you in person, by post or electronically (if agreed), within 5 business days of the agreement being signed.

    Pyramid selling schemes and other scams

    Pyramid selling schemes require all new participants to provide a financial or non-financial benefit to the existing participants of the scheme in order to be a member. New participants are then promised a financial or non-financial benefit for recruiting others to join the scheme.

    Many pyramid selling schemes are illegal.

    Scamwatch has information on how to recognise and protect you and others from many different scams, including:

    Contact the Office of Fair Trading or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to report scams.

    The Office of Fair Trading also has information on how to protect you and others from scams and fraud.

    Online shopping

    When shopping online, when you buy or sell goods or services you enter into a contract.

    The Office of Fair Trading has information and consumer tips for online shopping, including buying from overseas websites and using auction websites such as eBay.

    The ACCC also has information about online shopping.

    Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal

    The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) can hear consumer and trader disputes for amounts under $25,000 and if the dispute is about a contract for the supply of goods and services, such as food, clothes, appliances, and furniture and car repairs. You should try to resolve your dispute with the other party before asking QCAT to hear your dispute.

    If money was borrowed to buy goods and services, you should get legal advice as it may be possible to cancel a credit contract used to buy goods and services. See Consumer credit and guarantees.

    From 1 September 2019, if you claim arises as a result of a defective car, you may bring a claim up to the value of $100,000 in QCAT. 

    Law for All podcast series

    Episode 2: Legal tips and pitfalls: buying a used car in Queensland 

    In this episode, Legal Aid Queensland's consumer advocate Paul Holmes discusses some tips, pitfalls, and legal protections you have when buying a new used car from private sellers and car yards.

    Do I need legal advice?

    You may need legal advice if there is:

    • a dispute about a private sale
    • a dispute with the supplier of unsolicited goods or services
    • problems terminating an unsolicited consumer agreement
    • a dispute about buying or selling goods online.

    Get legal advice

    We may give legal advice about disputes involving consumer contracts, private sales or unsolicited goods and services.

    Our Consumer Protection Unit gives specialist legal advice about matters where products have been sold in situations where there's been high pressure sales tactics, such as unsolicited sales.

    The following organisations may be able to give legal advice.

    Community legal centres give legal information and advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help with your matter.

    LawRight Self Representation Service gives legal advice and help to people involved in civil proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family 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 don't provide representation.

    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) has information about making a complaint or resolving a consumer problem, consumer guarantees, warranties and refunds, unfair sales methods and tactics, tips for buying goods and services, and product safety alerts.

    The Australian Securities and Investments Commission have powers to protect consumers against misleading or deceptive and unconscionable conduct affecting all financial products and services, including credit.

    The MoneySmart website is maintained by ASIC to provide independent guidance for consumers making decisions about their personal finances. They provide information about:

    MoneySmart can also offer helpful information about important life events, including:

    The Office of Fair Trading ensures the marketplace remains fair and safe for both consumers and business. They can help with the following matters:

    QCAT hears consumer and trader disputes for amounts under $25,000 and if the dispute is about a contract for the supply of goods and services, such as food, clothes, appliances, furniture, car repairs and maintenance, meals served in restaurants, or a haircut by a hairdresser. From 1 September 2019, if your matter relates to a defective motor vehicle, you should try and resolve your dispute with the other party before asking QCAT to hear your dispute. You may bring a claim in QCAT up to the value of $100,000.

    Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.

    Last updated 30 November 2022