Online Shopping this Christmas? You Have Rights Under Consumer Law!

If you’re shopping online this Christmas, you have online consumer rights. Here’s what you need to know! Christmas is nearly upon us. And every year, […]

By John Christian – December 19, 2023
Consumer Rights Online Christmas Shopping - Victor Legal

Christmas is nearly upon us. And every year, more and more Australians are turning to online shopping in order to get those stockings filled and presents purchased. In fact, a 2022 survey found that a third of Australians shopped online for Christmas presents. And we expect this number to have risen this year.

But what happens when that perfect Christmas gift turns out to be not so perfect? What if the present you carefully chose online turns out to be faulty or not to match its description? Do you have any rights?

Yes, you do! Here’s what you need to know when online shopping this Christmas.

Your Online Consumer Rights

Just because you’re buying your presents from the comfort of your living room rather than from the shop floor doesn’t mean that your consumer rights are impacted, In fact, your online consumer rights are the same whether you’re buying a product in person in a shop or online. In both cases, in Australia, you’re protected by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

The ACL sets out automatic consumer guarantees that apply to online purchases. These include the guarantee that:

  • the goods purchased are of an acceptable quality
  • the goods purchased will match their description
  • the goods purchased will be fit for their usual purpose or any purpose you made known to the seller

When your consumer guarantees aren’t met

So what happens if those guarantees aren’t met?

Refunds and returns

Under the ACL, you’re entitled to return an item and be issued a refund if your guarantees aren’t met. For example, if the item you purchased is unsafe, of poor quality or doesn’t match the online description, you’re within your rights to return it and receive a refund.

Some other things to note when it comes to returns and refunds is that the goods are not required to be in the original packaging. And sales items are covered under this ACL guarantee (even where the company claims the sale is final).

However, you are not entitled to a refund simply because you change your mind about any item. Many companies will allow refunds in this situation because it’s good customer service. But this isn’t a consumer right under the ACL.

It’s important, therefore, when giving a Christmas gift that the recipient may wish to exchange or return, to find out about the company’s return policy in advance.

Rights when buying from overseas

In today’s interconnected world, many Australian consumers buy products from overseas. As long as you’re buying the product from within Australia, the ACL definitely applies and your consumer rights are the same.

However, the nature of an overseas company could complicate your ability to actually get a refund or return. So, it’s important to understand the company’s return policies thoroughly before purchasing, and to recognise where you might have difficulty (or expense!) getting a defective product back to the original seller.

Rights when buying from a private seller

Unfortunately the ACL doesn’t cover transactions with private sellers. So if you’re buying a product from Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, you won’t be protected by the ACL’s consumer rights. Many of these secondary markets do have their own policies in place. But it’s important to understand what those are prior to making any purchase in order to protect yourself.

Tips for Online Christmas Shopping

To have the best online Christmas shopping experience this year, consider the following tips:

  1. Only shop at secure websites (look for https:// and/or the padlock symbol in the search bar).
  2. Use secure payment methods only.
  3. Buy from reputable stores and always check the reviews and ratings of stores you’ve never purchased from before.
  4. Read the terms and conditions, including refund and return policies.

What if things go wrong?

Even if you’ve done all the right things and even followed all our tips, sometimes things can go wrong. Items can arrive broken, for example. When this happens you can (and should!) take the following steps:

  • Contact the seller directly. Explain the problem and tell them the solution you want.
  • If they aren’t willing to resolve the problem, reach out to your bank or credit card provider to ask about a change reversal.
  • You can also use the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC’s) complaint letter tool which can help you create an email (or printed letter) that you can send to the business you bought the product from.
  • If you still are unable to get a resolution, you can contact the ACCC directly. They may be able to offer you more advice and assistance.

Online Shopping Can Be Convenient and Safe!

Online shopping, particularly during the busy Christmas season, can be really convenient and help you keep the holiday stresses at bay. But it’s still important that you understand your consumer rights so you can have a convenient and safe online shopping experience.

At Victor Legal we’re specialists in consumer law and consumer disputes. Our team is on hand to provide you with more information on your rights and even more tips to have a safer online shopping experience.

Contact us today and let’s make sure that your consumer rights are protected – at Christmas and always!

Article by John Christian, Principal Lawyer, Founder and Director of Victor Legal

John has extensive experience in complex civil and commercial dispute resolution and litigation matters, specialising in:

Building and construction disputes
Complex litigation
Contract drafting and review
Dispute Resolution
Commercial Law
Corporate insolvency
Securities and caveats
Debt collection
Contract disputes
Commercial and risk mitigation advice

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