ACL Consumer tech warranty not a priority for the majority – it should be (guide)

The ACL Consumer Tech warranty generally lasts 12 months for your TV, soundbar, washer, fridge, kitchen appliance, printer, mobile phone, computer, tablet, or smartwatch. What happens if that breaks down just outside of warranty?

Do you throw it away and vow never to buy that brand again? Or do you understand your warranty rights under the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and stand up for them?

The ACCC has been busy identifying the bad guys, and there are some big names among the offenders. It has far-reaching powers under the ACL to protect all Australians. These powers apply to any product sold for personal or household use and are in addition to any stated warranties or so-called paid extended warranties.

ACL Consumer tech warranty

First, read Electrical and Whitegoods: an industry guide to the Australian Consumer Law (a Word file that all electrical resellers must abide by). It is an eye-opener – here is a summary of the major points.

  • You take a faulty electronic device back to the retailer. They state you must take it to the manufacturer – WRONG, the retailer sold it and must arrange repair, replacement, or refund at the purchaser’s sole discretion and no cost to you. You may even get compensation for loss of use.
  • You cannot easily take a product back to the retailer, and it says you must pay for return freight either to it or the manufacturer. WRONG – the retailer must pay for collection and return unless the product does not have a manufacturer’s defect.
  • You threw away the original packaging, but the warranty states you must return it in same. WRONG – the warranty covers the product, not the packaging.
  • You are told that an item has a 12-months warranty. WRONG. The ACL says that all products must be of acceptable quality – fit for purpose, and provide service for a reasonable amount of time commensurate with the purchase price. For example, a $1000 smartphone may have a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty, but you could reasonably expect it to last 3-4 years, including non-replaceable batteries. A sub $200 smartphone is ‘disposable’.
  • The retailer or manufacturer requires ‘original proof of purchase’, e.g. a receipt. WRONG – any proof is acceptable – credit card statement, a quote from the supplier (and subsequent purchase) or anything else. However, it is a good idea to save proof of purchase anyway.
  • The retailer has a no-refund policy. WRONG – you can insist on a refund, or if you feel that a warranty replacement will not cure the issue, e.g., the goods are unfit for purpose. Demand a refund.
  • The retailer claims you must purchase an extended warranty to repair goods outside the manufacturer’s warranty. WRONG – extended warranties, whether underwritten by an insurance company or the store, are worthless. ACL’s reasonable use and lifetime expectations cover you.

What the ACCC says on extended warranties

The ACCC believes that many consumers purchase extended warranties because they do not realise the extent of the protections provided by the Consumer Law. It is essential that extended warranty products sold to consumers should clearly identify the benefits they provide that go beyond those rights and remedies already available to consumers and that representations made at point of sale do not mislead consumers about the extent of the benefits being acquired.

ACCC spokesperson.

ACL Warranty protection started in 2011 – it is not new

ACL protection is not new. It started in January 2011. The real issue is that Retailers face problems with high staff turnover and a lack of management and staff training in consumer rights. Worse, some dinosaur retailers think a manufacturer’s warranty is still the B-all and End-all. WRONG – Inform them of your ACL rights, and if you have issues complain online – it guarantees a quick response.

Note: ACL warranty does not apply to overseas online purchases unless stated. You have no rights! Avoid marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, GumTree, Facebook and Kogan if a third-party merchant supplies the goods.

What is a reasonable ALC Consumer tech warranty?

The ‘reasonableness’ clause protects you. What is reasonable is a significant conundrum.

Fact: A 12-month warranty on most items does not make the grade.

For items under $500 – lower-cost tablets, smartphones, headphones, Bluetooth speakers, routers, monitors, printers, and more it is reasonable to expect these to last a few years. As a rule of thumb, if something breaks down – and it is a manufacturing defect, not wear and tear related – you can argue that two to three years or more is appropriate.

For items over $500 and up to $2,000 – tablets, smartphones, computers, printers, monitors, and lower-cost TVs – it is reasonable to expect these to last at least 3 to 5 years.

For items over $3000 – particularly high-end TVs – it is reasonable to expect 5-10 years, but the line between a breakdown due to manufacturer’s defect or simply wearing out is a fine one.

Years ago, manufacturers had to keep parts for around five-ten years – that was when you could repair things!

Consumables and fair wear and tear are contentious items.

Smartphone batteries, for example – especially where they are non-replaceable should last the practical life of the device. The manufacturer must replace the battery if, after 12 months, you can prove a loss of battery life is below reasonable expectations. Apple learnt that the hard way.

Fair wear and tear is the deterioration of appearance due to everyday use. This includes paint rubbing off, scratches, knocks and dents etc. Only manufacturer’s defects are covered if the item still works as promised.

CyberShack’s view – You have rights under an ACL Consumer tech warranty – here is what to do

I don’t know about you, but (a) I am tired of retailers and manufacturers avoiding warranty obligations and (b) sheep-like consumers accepting that.

Frankly, I have heard so much B/S from retailers that I take off the kid gloves at the first sign of resistance and don’t even bother to be polite anymore. ‘I know my rights under the ACL’ is usually all I have to say. And if that does not work, I pull up the ACCC’s website on my smartphone and show them.

Under ACL, there is no such thing as an altruistic gesture by a manufacturer or retailer to replace, repair or refund – it is your right to choose, so demand it.

Having been through the ACL complaints process a few times now, it is slow but effective. Slow means you may need to buy another item to get by, which can take a few months. Effective means the Consumer protection agency works for you and is unbiased in its decision.

You don’t complain via the ACCC. You start with the state-based consumer protection agency.

Australian Capital Territory
Office of Regulatory Services
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: 02 6207 3000
Australian Capital Territory: Office of Regulatory Services website

New South Wales
NSW Fair Trading
PO Box 972
Parramatta NSW 2124
Telephone: 13 32 20
New South Wales: Fair Trading website

Northern Territory
Northern Territory Consumer Affairs
PO Box 40946
Casuarina NT 0811
Telephone: 1800 019 319
Northern Territory: Consumer Affairs website

Office of Fair Trading
GPO Box 3111
Brisbane QLD 4001
Telephone: 13 QGOV (13 74 68)
Queensland: Office of Fair Trading website

South Australia
Consumer and Business Services
GPO Box 1719
Adelaide SA 5001
Telephone: 131 882
South Australia: Consumer and Business Services website

Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading
GPO Box 1244
Hobart TAS 7001
Telephone: 1300 654 499
Tasmania: Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading website

Consumer Affairs Victoria
GPO Box 123
Melbourne 3001
Telephone: 1300 55 81 81
Victoria: Consumer Affairs Victoria website

Western Australia
Department of Commerce
Locked Bag 14
Cloisters Square WA 6850
Telephone: 1300 30 40 54
Western Australia: Department of Commerce website

Further reading Why Australian Consumer Law warranties are vital for tech (guide)