Consumer guarantees under Australian law

When you buy goods and services you automatically have rights.

These rights are called consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law.

For more information go to the Australian Consumer Law website.

If a good or service fails to meet a guarantee, you can exercise your rights against:

  • the business where you purchased them
  • in some cases, the manufacturer, who can provide a remedy.

When you have a problem with goods or a service, the type of remedy you can ask for depends on whether the problem is classed as either:

  • a major failure
  • or a minor failure.

The time you have to reject the good or service is however long it would reasonably be expected to last.

What you are guaranteed

You are guaranteed the goods you buy are all of the following:

  • of acceptable quality
  • match the description, sample or demonstration model you were shown
  • are fit for their intended purpose
  • have clear title, unless otherwise stated
  • do not have any money owing on them
  • come with a right to undisturbed possession.

You are guaranteed the services you buy are all of the following:

  • provided with due care and skill
  • fit for purpose
  • completed within a reasonable time.

A manufacturer also guarantees the availability of spare parts and repairs, and that any warranty will be honoured.

Find out more if you have a dispute with a business.

Goods and services covered

Consumer guarantees apply to:

  • goods and services that cost less than $40,000
  • goods and services bought for personal, domestic or household use, regardless of price
  • vehicles and trailers.

Consumer guarantees do not apply to goods bought:

  • before 1 January 2011 - these are covered by previous laws
  • for your business that cost more than $40,000
  • in one-off sales by private sellers such as garage sales and school fetes
  • at auction where the auctioneer acts as agent for the owner
  • for on-sale or resupply
  • for your business to manufacture, produce or repair something else.

Consumer guarantees do not apply to services that:

  • were bought before 1 January 2011 - these are covered by previous laws
  • cost more than $40,000 and are normally for business use
  • are for the transportation or storage of goods for a business, trade, profession or occupation
  • are insurance contracts.

Major failure of goods or services

For a major failure, you can choose which remedy to take. The business does not get to decide.

Goods

A major failure with goods is when:

  • you would not have bought them if you had known about the problem
  • they are significantly different from the description, sample or demonstration model shown to you
  • they are substantially unfit for normal purpose and can't easily be made fit within a reasonable time, for example, a raincoat that is not waterproof because it is made from the wrong material
  • they are substantially unfit for a purpose you told the supplier about and can't easily be made fit within a reasonable time, for example a car is not powerful enough to tow your boat despite you telling the dealer you needed the car to tow a boat
  • they are unsafe, for example, an electric kettle with faulty wiring.

For a major failure with goods, you can:

  • reject the goods and get a refund
  • reject the goods and get an identical replacement or one of similar value
  • keep the goods and claim compensation for the drop in value caused by the problem.

Services

A major failure with services is when:

  • you would not have used the services if you had known the nature and extent of the problem, for example, you would not have had a jacket dry-cleaned if you knew the dye would run
  • the services are unfit for their normal purpose and can't easily be made fit within a reasonable time, for example, a carpet-cleaning service changes the colour of your carpet in some places
  • you told the business that you wanted a specific result but the service, and any resulting product, do not achieve that result
  • you told the business you wanted their service for a specific purpose but it did not achieve that purpose, for example, if you tell a pay TV company you’re signing up to watch the football finals but they install the service after the finals are over
  • the supply of the service has created an unsafe situation, for example, an electrician incorrectly wires wall sockets in your new kitchen.

For a major failure with services, you can:

  • cancel the service contract with the business and claim a refund
  • or keep the contract and claim compensation for the difference in the service delivered and what was paid for.

Minor failure of goods or services

If a failure of goods or a service is not major and can be repaired within a reasonable time, you can't reject the goods and demand a refund. 

Goods

For a minor failure of goods, the business can:

  • provide a refund
  • replace the goods
  • repair the goods.

Read more about getting a refund and returning goods.

Services

For services, the business must fix the problem:

  • free of charge
  • within a reasonable time.

Read more about using service providers.

For more advice, contact NT Consumer Affairs.

Last updated: 27 June 2017