Big W and Target have shown how easy it is for retailers of any size to fall afoul of consumer laws, with both pledging to change their practices after complaints about refunds on faulty products.
The ACCC released separate statements within minutes of each other on Tuesday (15 October) announcing that it secured court-enforceable undertakings with both discount department store chains over their compliance with Australian Consumer Law.
Despite the timing of the announcements, they were prompted by customers complaining about their attempts to return different faulty products.
Big W sucked in over faulty Dyson products
According to the competition watchdog, staff at Woolworths-owned Big W had told customers complaining about faulty Dyson appliances that they would need to deal directly with the manufacturer for remedy if the complaint was made more than 14 days from the date of purchase.
These claims were made from at least 30 December 2016 to 30 April 2018.
“Big W has acknowledged that its conduct may have misled consumers about their rights to a repair, replacement or a refund for faulty products,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said.
“Consumers have a right to ask the business they have purchased a faulty product from for a repair, replacement or even a refund, depending on the seriousness of the fault.
“Retailers cannot shift their responsibility to manufacturers or set an arbitrary time limit on their obligations under the consumer guarantees.”
Under the terms of the agreed undertaking, Big W will review and update its compliance training program for staff, review all customer queries made about faulty products and publish a special notice about faulty Dyson appliances on its website.
Responding to the announcement, a Big W spokesperson issued a statement acknowledging the retailer had co-operated with the ACCC. The full statement read:
“We treat our obligations under the Australian Consumer Law seriously.
“We respect that customers have the right to access simple, hassle-free remedies from retailers when products are faulty, and regret that we may have misled customers on consumer guarantees in the past.
“We have cooperated with the ACCC and are committed to implementing a number of additional compliance measures, as set out in the undertaking, to ensure that we’re taking a customer-first approach to handling faulty product returns.”
Target takes aim over faulty PlayStations
Meanwhile at competitor Target, customer service staff had been telling purchasers of faulty Sony Playstations a similar thing.
According to the ACCC, customers complaining about their purchases were told they should approach Sony directly and were not entitled to any remedy from Target if the fault had occurred more than 30 days from the date of purchase.
This occurred between at least January and August in 2017, the regulator said.
“Target has admitted that it may have misled consumers about rights they had to a refund, replacement or repair under the Consumer Guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law,” Ms Court said.
She reiterated the same comments as for Big W, in that consumers have a legal right to request a refund or remedy from the business that sold them the product.
Similar to the terms of Big W’s undertaking, Target will review and improve its compliance training, review customer complaints and publish a notice on its website asking customers who had a concern about the PlayStation they had purchased or Target’s subsequent response to come forward.
Late on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Target issued the following statement:
“Target acknowledges the matters referred to by the ACCC, which happened in 2017. Ensuring Target customers have a great experience whenever they shop with us is a high priority and we’ve since reviewed our processes and team education to ensure we put customers first when handling faulty product returns.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.