Before you buy anything, whether it’s material goods or a service, you should know:
- your legal rights
- how to protect yourself from scams and other dishonest activities
- what to do, or where to find help, if things go wrong
The older you get and the larger your purchases are, the more important it is that you’re on top of how to look after yourself and your investments.
What is consumer protection law?
Consumer law is there to monitor relationships between individual consumers (you) and businesses selling you goods and services.
Basically, it’s in place to prevent people taking advantage and selling you things that don’t work, are overpriced, or illegal.
Who’s in charge of consumer protection?
In Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are the Government organisation in charge of protecting your consumer rights. They make sure that businesses are doing the right thing. Ensuring that industries are regulated (meaning there are rules they must stick to that make life fairer for everyone), price monitored, and preventing illegal or anti-competitive behaviour.
What are my rights?
As a consumer in Australia, you can expect:
- To deal with businesses who are honest, reliable, and registered
- Any products that you buy should be safe and do the job they’re advertised to do
- Get refunds or replacements if you buy items that don’t work, are faulty, or never turn up
- Have the law behind you if you need to deal with circumstances where you’ve been tricked or deceived
Tips for making safe purchases
There are a lot of dishonest people out there who are more than happy to take or steal your money. You might think that you’ll never fall for a scam, but unfortunately it happens all the time to people of all ages.
Bear in mind these tips:
- Banks will never ask for your bank details over the phone.
- No reputable business will ask you to pay in gift cards and if they do, it’s a scam.
- If you are making a payment over the phone or online and handing out your card details, you should only have to provide the card number, name on the card, expiry date and CVC / CVV (card verification code) on the back. You will never have to give your bank account number or BSB number.
- Do not sign a contract unless you have read and understood all the term, clauses and small print – they are legally binding
Check out the seller
Before you buy anything, check that the business selling it is:
- genuine (as in it really does exist)
- registered (with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) register or ABN lookup), and
- has a good reputation (look at reviews and testimonials from a variety of sources)
Websites like Scamadviser can be a useful starting point.
Keep records or proof of purchase
When you buy anything, make sure you get a receipt and keep it. Taking a photo is useful too, as sometimes the ink fades until you can’t read it.
If your goods come with a warranty (a type of guarantee from the manufacturer about the condition of the product, repairs, or exchange), or a guarantee (a legally binding assurance of quality) make sure you keep it.
Sometimes you might have to register your item or service, or get a record (even just a stamp) that your warranty/guarantee has been acknowledged or activated. So make sure you do that too.
Note: be careful if you buy something online, especially from overseas, as your rights may be different.
Tips to remember when buying online
- Never send your credit card number via email.
- Opt for full payment on delivery, rather than paying the full amount in advance.
- Use gift cards, vouchers, and credit notes as soon as possible so you do not miss the expiry date.
- Never sign up for open-ended charges against your card.
- When you enter your card details, do not provide your bank account number as well.
- Contact you credit card provider immediately if you become aware of an unauthorised transaction on your account (there’s usually a number on the back you can call).
Find out more
If you’d like to read more about your rights as a consumer, visit the ACCC website here: https://www.accc.gov.au/
Or take a look at more money tips on the Study Work Grow website here.