Consumer Law Update: Can You Return Faulty or Unwanted Xmas Gifts?

When it comes to Christmas gifts, they often say that it’s the thought that counts. Despite this, time and time again, many of us are left wondering what on earth our friends or family where thinking when they gifted us that diamante encrusted dolphin centrepiece or that book promising 101 delicious microwave recipes.

Every Christmas, without fail, many of us receive well intentioned gifts that we don’t like or don’t want. Even worse, it is doubtful that a Christmas will go by without a few tears or tantrums over a remote-controlled car that doesn’t work or a broken barbie doll.

This raises possibly one of the most pondered post-Christmas questions – what are our legal rights when it comes to returning these faulty or unwanted gifts?

The law that governs these transactions is the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Under this law, transactions are treated differently depending on whether the gift is faulty or just ridiculous. Below, we have broken down your legal rights if you receive a gift that is faulty or simply something you don’t want in order to assist you with dealing with these undesirable situations.

Faulty gifts under the Australian Consumer Law:

Under the ACL, a retailer must refund, repair or replace any sold goods which are:

  • Faulty or defective;
  • Don’t match the demo or sample;
  • Don’t do what the salesperson said they would do;
  • Different to that which was advertised; or
  • Not fit for the purpose for which they were intended.

The remedy available for the issue is dependent on how faulty/damaged the product is. If the product has a minor issue, the store can choose to repair the product free of charge, rather than replacing it. If the issue is minor and the store offers you a repair, you cannot insist on a replacement or refund.

On the other hand, if the issue with the product is a major issue, then you have the right to request a replacement or a refund. Examples of a major problem include:

  • A problem that is such that it would stop a customer purchasing the product in the first place;
  • A product that is unsafe;
  • Something that is significantly different to its description or advertisement;
  • A product that doesn’t do what it is supposed to do and cannot be fixed easily.

What if I don’t have a receipt?

You don’t have to have a receipt to return a faulty item. However, stores are likely to request that you prove you purchased the product. This can often be done with a bank statement or receipt number. Often, stores now electronically store receipts and can look up the name of the person who purchased the product.

What if the item was on sale?

When it comes to returning faulty goods, you have the same rights regardless of whether an item was on sale or not. However, you cannot claim a refund if the fault was something the store informed you (or your gift giver) of before it was purchased (think shirt on sale due to missing buttons).

What if the store advertises no refunds?

In Australia, putting up a sign that says “no refunds” is illegal because it suggests you don’t have access to an appropriate remedy if your product has a major issue. Further to this, your rights under the ACL do not have a specific expiry date and can protect you even after the official product warranty has expired.

Unwanted gifts under the Australian Consumer Law:

Sometimes it is simply the case that the Christmas gift you have received has nothing actually wrong with it other than just being hideous, impractical or embarrassing. So, what are your rights when it comes to returning unwanted Christmas presents?

Unfortunately, the store has no obligation under the law to give you a refund if you simply don’t like the present. Despite this, some stores will offer a store credit as a gesture of good will. You can usually check a store’s return policy online to find out whether you are likely to get a refund or store credit. This saves you lugging the present to the store only to get turned away.

If you do receive a gift you don’t like, and the store it was purchased from refuse to refund the item or grant credit, we suggest you do one of the following:

  1. Sell the gift online – They say that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Just because a gift isn’t to your liking, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t love it. You can often exchange an unwanted gift for cash easily by selling the item on eBay or Gumtree.
  2. Re-gift – Again, just because you don’t like a Christmas present, doesn’t mean one of your friends with a birthday in January won’t want the it. If you hate your present, why not re-wrap it and pass it on?
  3. Donate – Lastly, if you received a gift so heinous that you can’t bring yourself to re-gift the item, or you don’t want to bother with the trouble of selling it, you can always donate the item to a charity store.

Want to know more about the application of Australian Consumer Law? Looking for an experienced solicitor in Newcastle, Sydney or the Hunter to assist you with a legal matter? Call us on (02) 4929 7002, email us or complete an enquiry form.