Refunds and repairs
You have no legal right to a refund or exchange simply because you changed your mind (or you realised a turquoise lounge was not the best match for your canary carpet!) – in that case you will have to rely on the goodwill of the trader.
Always keep the receipt for any purchase or payment – you will need it if things go wrong. It is remarkable how many people buy goods and then throw away the receipt. When you have a problem, the first question you will be asked is "do you have the receipt?" Don't assume that it will be electronically stored elsewhere.
Make sure you return goods to the seller/trader (or get in touch with the tradesperson) as soon as you know there is a problem. Tell the trader the precise details of the problem and take good care of the goods until they can be returned. If you damage the goods before their return you may not be entitled to a refund.
When dealing with a tradesperson, make it clear what you expect. Be careful if you insist that the job (or materials used) be carried out in a certain way that is against the tradesperson's advice. You will not be able to complain if the result of your own instructions is unsatisfactory.
Your rights to refund/exchange
There is no automatic right to a full refund for goods you buy. Sometimes stores have this policy as a goodwill gesture or for marketing purposes.
In limited circumstances you may be entitled to a refund or exchange of goods if they:
- are faulty (a fault you could not reasonably have known of when you bought it);
- do not perform in the way they are meant to;
- do not perform in the way they were designed to do;
- breach the Australian Consumer Law guarantees (see Consumer Protection Law fact sheet)
- do not match the sample (or display item) you were shown at the time you bought it; or
- are not what was described to you.
You will not be entitled to a cash refund if you did not pay cash in the first place.
Your rights to refund/repair
You may be entitled to a refund (or repair) of services if it is:
- not what was reasonably anticipated;
- not carried out with skill and care; or
- completed with inappropriate materials.
TIP: Ask for a refund even when you may not be legally entitled to it (e.g. you had second thoughts) – some stores will happily offer a refund or a credit note even when they are not legally obliged to.
You may be entitled to:
- a refund;
- repair; or
See Consumer Protection Law fact sheet for further information.
Making a complaint
If you are unhappy with a product or service:
- contact the business. Make sure you take notes of the conversation, and the time and the date it took place. Get quickly to the point, don't include unnecessary detail or simply vent your feelings;
- suggest a solution and ask how long it will take to deal with the issue;
- if you are not successful, write a letter about your concerns and send it to the appropriate senior person;
- if you are not satisfied with the response get in touch with your State/Territory Consumer Affairs or Fair Trading Office and ask for information about your rights.
Of course you can get legal advice, or help from your State/Territory Consumer Affairs or Fair Trading Office, at any time.
'No Exchange No Refund' signs
You will see these signs in stores – 'No Exchange, No Refund' – they do not affect your rights to an exchange or refund under the law. If the trader or tradesperson refuses to discuss a remedy, get legal advice or contact your Consumer Affairs (or Fair Trading) Department.
Similarly, signs in stores with messages such as 'no responsibility for loss or damage', do not excuse a trader from their responsibility to take reasonable care of the goods.
As a goodwill gesture, a trader may give you a credit note if you return goods because you have changed your mind. On the other hand, you are not obliged to accept a credit note if you have returned goods because they are faulty. In that case you are entitled to demand a refund or replacement goods.
Last Updated – June 2012
© Lawscape Communications P/L.
This fact sheet is intended to be general information about the law in Australia. It is not a substitute for legal or other professional advice. Lawscape Communications Pty Ltd and Fairfax Digital Ltd do not accept responsibility for loss to any person, who either acts or does not act because of this fact sheet. Last Updated - October 2005