In Australia, we have consumer protection legislation to protect consumers from unfair business practices and transactions and to monitor fair dealings between sellers and buyers.
9.1 Consumer rights
Under the ‘Australian Consumer Law’, a federal law, any products that you buy from an Australian seller are subject to ‘consumer guarantees’. These apply to:
- new and second-hand products;
- sale items; and
- items bought from an Australian seller online.
You have the right to enforce the consumer guarantees, which are that any such goods:
- are of acceptable quality and not faulty;
- do not cause damage to other property;
- match the description advertised for that good;
- match the quality of any sample or demonstration model;
- are fit for the purpose specified;
- are able to be sold under the seller’s license;
- have repairs and spare parts available; and
- that there are appropriate refund or replacement options available if the item is faulty.
Your rights are explained in more detail at http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/consumer-rights. If you cannot adequately resolve the problem with the seller after discussing these rights, you can lodge a formal complaint with the Department of Commerce – Consumer Protection at
http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/how-lodge-formal-complaint. For further assistance, you can phone the Department of Commerce on 1300 30 40 54.
9.2 Unfair contracts
A contract is unfair if one party does not understand their obligations and the other party to the contract is aware of this. This usually occurs when one party is more vulnerable than the other party, due to a disability, lack of understanding or lack of experience in the type of contract. Some typical situations where this may occur include:
- purchasing a car;
- purchasing a mobile phone;
- hire agreements for furniture or electrical goods;
- residential leases;
- department store purchases;
- personal loans;
- credit cards; and
- door to door sales.
You may have a claim for an unfair contract if one of the following has occurred:
- Where one party is vulnerable because of a disability of some kind, including where they are poorly educated or unable to read or speak English well, and the other party fails to adequately explain the contract to the vulnerable party such that there was inequality between the bargaining positions of the party (unconscionable conduct).
- Where the relationship between parties to a proposed contract is one of trust and confidence, which enables one party to exercise some form of domination or superiority over the other (undue influence).
- Where the seller of an item misrepresents the quality, quantity, function or performance of the item in question (misrepresentation or misleading or deceptive conduct).
In these instances, you may be able to get the contract set aside and/or seek compensation from the other party. You can contact the Department of Commerce – Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 for further advice if you believe you have been subjected to an unfair contract.
9.3 Credit issues
If you are experiencing financial hardship, you can make a request to your creditor to vary the repayments due under your credit contract with them. For further advice on this, see http://cclswa.org.au/advice/hardship/.
For free advice on dealing with credit issues, contact the Consumer Credit Legal Service (WA) on (08) 9221 7066 between 9:00am and 4:00pm from Monday to Friday, email them at email@example.com, or visit their website for more information at http://cclswa.org.au.