Rights and protection

Refunds and returns

Most products and services that you buy, hire or lease have automatic consumer guarantees. This means you are entitled to a refund, a repair or to have the goods replaced if there is a problem. The seller may also offer another remedy. The type of remedy depends on the problem.

Getting a refund

If the seller refers you directly to the manufacturer, advise them that under Australian Consumer Law, they must contact the manufacturer for you.

If you have a major problem with the goods or service, you can choose to have:

  • a refund
  • the goods replaced or repaired
  • and at times, compensation if there's a drop in value for a service.

If the problem with the goods or service is minor, the business can choose to give you a free repair instead of a replacement or refund.

You are entitled to return something even if:

  • you have used it - faults aren't always obvious at first
  • jewellery, underwear or swimwear have been worn
  • you have removed the packaging or tags
  • it was a gift, but you must provide proof of purchase - eg a receipt
  • you bought the item online from an Australian business (not a private seller)
  • it was bought from a second-hand store.

However, you will need to consider:

  • the item's age, price and condition
  • how long ago you bought it.

If a seller goes out of business, you can request a refund or replacement directly with the manufacturer.

Goods that you may not be able to return

Some goods and services aren't covered by automatic consumer guarantees. Consumer guarantees and warranties has more information about items that are excluded.

Sellers can refuse to accept a return if:

  • the store identified faults before you bought the item
  • you inspected the item before buying and didn't find faults you should have seen
  • the item was used incorrectly
  • the item has been used a lot
  • you changed your mind - some sellers will offer to refund or exchange as a sign of good will.

Returning faulty goods

The supplier may ask you to send goods back to them if there is a problem. Inspecting the item can help them work out exactly what the problem is and if it can be fixed.

Returning faulty goods - fact sheet (261.3 KB PDF)

Cost of returning faulty goods

If the item can be posted or easily returned, you should organise it. You don’t need to return things in their original packages but make sure you:

  • ask the supplier about their returns policy before you pay for postage or a courier, and if the supplier has a free pick up service.
  • keep postage receipts so you can get back any reasonable postage or transport costs from the seller once the goods are proven faulty.
  • wrap the goods so they are well protected in the post or other delivery.

The seller pays for the cost of returning goods when:

  • the item with a major fault is too large, heavy or difficult to remove - eg a bed, wide screen TV, extension ladder stuck in the extended position, or installed goods like a stove.
  • the fault means that it’s too dangerous or the goods are too fragile to return without expert assistance.

Cost of returning goods that aren’t faulty

Ask the seller about transport costs if they inspect the item and it doesn’t prove to be faulty. This can help you decide on the best way to return an item. Sellers may be in breach of Australian Consumer Law if they:

  • don't tell you about transport or inspection costs - especially if this means you don’t have a chance to decide on a different option
  • inflate costs so that you decide not to return.

Repair notices

Businesses have to give you a written repair notice before they start repairs on electronic goods like mobile phones or computers. The notice must say:

'The repair of your goods may result in the loss of any user-generated data. Please ensure that you have made a copy of any data saved on your goods.'

If it's likely that the business will repair using second-hand parts, the notice must say:

'Goods presented for repair may be replaced by refurbished goods of the same type rather than being repaired. Refurbished parts may be used to repair the goods.'

Getting help from Consumer and Business Services

There are some simple steps that you can take before contacting Consumer and Business Services for advice and help with negotiating with the business, eg - writing a complaint letter to the business.

Making a consumer complaint has advice and a checklist to guide you through resolving problems with a business.

Refund tips

Keep receipts or proof of purchase safe

Proof of purchase can include:

  • original receipt or photo of the receipt
  • credit card slip or statement
  • lay-by agreement
  • warranty card showing information about the product, the date and purchase amount
  • reference number – phone or online payments
  • copy of a paid cheque or acknowledgement by store staff that they sold the item to you.

Don't lose or throw out the goods

You need to return the product to the seller to get a refund, so don't throw it away or destroy it.

Take care of the goods

Take care of products you intend to return - eg it wouldn't be appropriate to leave a leather lounge suite outside until you returned it.

Related information

On this site

Buying goods over the internet

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Page last updated 29 November 2016

Provided by:
Attorney-General's Department
Last Updated:
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