Watchdog warns clothing retailers after Click Frenzy
Clothing retailers are misleading consumers during busy sales events, such as Click Frenzy, Black Friday and Boxing Day, by refusing to offer refunds or exchanges on discounted items.
That is the finding of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which has reviewed the online policies of several large Australian clothing retailers to ensure they meet Australian Consumer Law.
“This year the ACCC has received over 750 complaints regarding consumer guarantees for clothing purchases. We are reviewing the policies of retailers at busy times such as Click Frenzy, in the lead up to Christmas and during the Boxing Day sales period,” ACCC deputy chair, Dr Michael Schaper, said.
“If customers are looking to return faulty goods after this week’s Click Frenzy online shopping event, the ACL gives them the right to choose between a refund or replacement if a product they have purchased has a major fault, even for sale and clearance items. If a product has a minor fault, retailers can choose to provide a free repair instead of a refund or replacement.”
The watchdog is engaging directly with 12 retailers to ask them to amend their online returns policies to avoid confusing or misleading consumers.
“Businesses must ensure the rights of consumers are honoured when they try to return a faulty product. Retailers must not misrepresent the consumer law and the rights of their customers in the wording and advertising of their returns’ policies. We will take further action if a retailer is not fulfilling its legal obligations under consumer law,” Dr Schaper said.
While retailers are not obligated to offer a refund or exchange if consumers have simply changed their mind, they must offer a refund, repair or replacement on faulty products, unless they alerted consumers to the fault before purchase.
This holds true even for items on sale or clearance. Retailers cannot simply state ‘No Refunds’ or ‘No refunds or exchanges on sale items’. This is unlawful and doesn’t alter consumers’ rights under the ACL.
In addition, retailers cannot restrict the period in which consumers can get a remedy for faulty products. Consumers have a right to a remedy for a reasonable amount of time after buying the item, which can last longer than any express warranty period given to when the item was purchased.
Athleisure retailer Lululemon recently paid penalties totalling $32,400, following three infringement notices from the ACCC for alleged false or misleading representations about consumer guarantee rights.
Dr Schaper said misleading statements about online refunds and returns are one of the most complained about issues reported to the ACCC.
“Already this year, the ACCC has received over 24,000 contacts about consumers guarantees so it is important for us warn the retail sector and educate consumers as we enter the busiest shopping period of the year,” Dr Schaper said.