Remedying Problems with Goods

Consumers have a right to a remedy if the goods they purchase are faulty. The type of remedy available to them depends on whether the fault is minor or major.

What is a major failure with a good?

A problem with a good would be considered major if the good is:

  • significantly different from the description, sample or demonstration model;
  • substantially unfit for its normal purpose and cannot be easily adjusted to make it fit for a normal purpose;
  • substantially unfit for the purpose that the consumer told the retailer they were purchasing it for, and the good cannot be easily adjusted to make it fit for that purpose; or
  • unsafe.

Additionally, if a problem occurs with a good that is so bad that a reasonable consumer would not have bought the good if they knew about it, then the problem is considered major.

If the problem with a good doesn't meet the criteria of a 'major problem' and can be fixed within a reasonable time, then it is considered minor. Problems with the title of goods are also considered minor, as the supplier may be able to fix the problem (e.g. paying off the debt which affects the goods' title).

For more information on what constitutes a minor or major failure with goods see the Department of Commerce's website.

Remedies for major failures with goods

The remedies available to a consumer where there is a major problem with a good include:

  • rejecting or returning the good and getting a refund;
  • rejecting or returning the good and getting a replacement; or
  • keeping the good and being compensated for the difference in value of the good compared to what was paid for it.

In some circumstances, such as where the consumer has damaged or destroyed the goods, a consumer cannot reject a faulty good.

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Remedies for minor failures with goods

Unlike major problems, if there is a minor problem with a good, the consumer cannot choose their remedy. The supplier must be given the opportunity to fix the problem. Other remedies that the supplier may choose to offer the consumer includes:

  • a refund;
  • replacing the good;
  • fix the title to the goods (if this is the problem); or
  • repair the good (if the cost of this is less than its overall value of goods).

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Repairing goods

When a business repairs a faulty consumer good, the business must meet the following obligations:

  • notify the consumer before they repair a good with second hand parts;
  • if a consumer has a defective good and they choose to replace this with a refurbished good rather than repair the original, the business must inform the consumer of this decision, before taking action;
  • if the business plans on repairing a device that can store user-generated data (e.g. computer, smart phone, iPad), then they must tell the consumer that repairing the product may result in the wiping of the data off the device; and
  • the business must repair a good within a reasonable time.

Repairers who fail to comply with their obligations may face civil or criminal penalties (monetary), infringement notices or legal action.

A consumer can take their faulty good to a third party for repair when:

  • there is a reason why they can't take it back to the business where it was purchased (e.g. they live too far away); or
  • the business that sold it to them cannot repair the good within a reasonable time.

In such circumstances, the business that originally sold the good has an obligation to pay the reasonable costs of repairs carried out by a third party.

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