1 Contact the seller
If there is a Under the Australian Consumer Law, a person who buys goods or services for less than $40 000 or for personal or home use. problem, a consumer should first contact the seller and/or the manufacturer. The consumer should explain, in writing, the problem and state what remedy they want. Writing a complaint in a letter or email provides a record of the contact. The letter should also outline the steps the consumer A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. take if the seller or manufacturer cannot resolve the problem. The letter should ask for a response within a reasonable time (e.g. within 10 business days).
2 Contact third parties such as the ACCC and Consumer Affairs Victoria
Consumers can contact the ACCC online (www.accc.gov.au) to report breaches of consumer laws. Consumers can also contact ASIC online (https://asic.gov.au) to report breaches of warranties in relation to the supply of financial services. Consumers with legal problems can contact Consumer Affairs Victoria (see ‘Contacts’, below).
3 Contact industry ombudsmen and dispute resolution schemes
Consumers with legal problems may be able to access the complaints process under the industry Codes of Conduct (e.g. banking, insurance) and A public official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against government departments and statutory authorities. A specialised ombudsman resolves consumer complaints in a particular industry, for example the banking ombudsman for the banking industry. See also statutory authority. schemes (e.g. the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, the Energy and Water Ombudsman). The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (see ‘Contacts’, below) provides a free complaints Formal delivery of legal documents to a person to tell them there are court proceedings against them which they must defend, or to make sure a witness in a case knows when they have to go to court to give evidence. in the areas of banking, insurance and financial planning.
4 Contact a community legal centre
Consumers with legal problems can obtain free legal advice from community legal centres, such as the Consumer Action Law Centre and Fitzroy Legal Service (see ‘Contacts’, below).
5 Take legal action and go to An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate.
A consumer may consider taking private legal action for breaches of consumer guarantees but remember that success is not assured. For small claims in Victoria, go to VCAT. Small business and consumer disputes can be mediated by the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (see ‘Contacts’, below). Also see Chapter 7.4: Taking action as a consumer.