A national regime protects consumers when buying goods and services. Your rights depend on whether your claim is against a supplier or manufacturer. Goods and services must be reasonably fit for purpose.

Contributors

Paul Latimer

Adjunct Professor, Swinburne Law School

Consumer guarantees: Getting help

Last updated

1 June 2021

1 Contact the seller

If there is a consumer 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 will 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 ombudsman schemes (e.g. the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, the Energy and Water Ombudsman). The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (see ‘Contacts’, below) provides a free complaints service 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 court

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.

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