Consumer law - Return of goods

Yukio Hayashi    06 Jun 2019

Q: I bought a pair of jeans, but I couldn't wear them because the zipper broke after wearing it twice. When I asked for a return, the store clerk told me, "The jean was an on-sale item, and we do not accept returns." How can I deal with this matter?

A: In Australia, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) guarantees consumers various rights. The scope of ACL is very wide, and it can be applied not only to products but also to services. Section 54 of the ACL states, so to speak, that goods are of acceptable quality—that is, they are safe, durable and free from defects, are acceptable in appearance and finish and do what they are ordinarily expected to do. In this sense, the seller has to refund, replace or repair these jeans because clothes that break after being worn twice would not be "reasonably durable".

Section 54 of the ACL determines "reasonable quality" for a product by taking into account various factors such as general use, price, labelling, etc. For example, a $5 t-shirt naturally has a lower degree of "reasonable quality" than that of a $50 t-shirt. In other words, the $5 t-shirt being discoloured after several times of washing will not fall under a consumer guarantee claim. If a home appliance such as a refrigerator breaks after one year of normal use, it will not be considered "reasonably durable". Products such as home appliances often come with a manufacturer's warranty for a fixed period (for example a one-year warranty). However, although this manufacturer's warranty expires, the consumer's right could continue if section 54 applies. In addition, ACL requires manufacturers to incorporate into a warranty the term that "this manufacturer's warranty does not limit the consumer's ACL rights".

Furthermore, even if the purchased goods are goods on sale, used goods or goods purchased on the Internet, despite a difference in the degree of guarantee, section 54 of ACL still applies. Situations in which the ACL consumer guarantee does not apply include a purchase of goods without receipts or proof of purchase, a purchase between private individuals without receipt (e.g. garage sales) or at auctions or with goods used unusually. Additionally, there may be cases in which consumers want to return a product just because they changed their mind without any problem with quality. In such cases, ACL does not apply.

Accordingly, for the current case, if the store does not accept the return of the jeans, it is recommended that you first tell the store manager that you will consult with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or Fair Trading. If they still deny responding, we encourage you to contact these agencies.

Key Contacts

Yukio Hayashi

Yukio Hayashi

Senior Partner