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Consumer rights


854000_64508029Earlier this week Inside Retail ran an article stating that the Federal Court had ordered four Harvey Norman franchisees to pay a total of $86,000 in penalties for making false or misleading representations regarding consumer guarantee rights.

There have been nine judgements against Harvey Norman with penalties totalling $234,000. When will they learn?

While verbal misrepresentations are one thing, the harsh reality of instore signage is quite another. How many people reading this article are guilty of breaking the law?

The following signs are illegal, and yet one sees them daily in stores: ‘No refunds’, ‘No refunds after 7 days’, ‘We will exchange, repair or give a credit note but do not refund’.

Signs that are legal include: ‘No refund for incorrect choice’, or ‘No refund if you change your mind’.

There are a number of myths worth noting – the customer is not required to return the goods in the original packaging; the customer does not have to provide a sales receipt when returning goods, they simply need proof of the transaction.

These rules may vary slightly from state to state. I have used the NSW consumer rights, so it may be worth checking if you operate in other states.

Most large retailers err on the side of generosity when it comes to providing refunds. They know the goodwill this creates and are prepared to be taken for a ride by the odd unscrupulous customer. For example, Williams-Sonoma in the States has been known to exchange goods and pass refunds for goods not even purchased at their stores.

It wasn’t that long ago that signs such as ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone’ were used in stores.

And how about ‘If your child is screaming, crying, yelling please take him/her outside’.

Almost every store has some kind of threatening signage.

‘No trolleys allowed, ‘No food or drink’, ‘Surcharge on credit card purchases’, ‘If you break it, you will pay for it’, and so the list goes on.

Have a look around your store(s) and see how many signs have accumulated over the years. Consider the effect of removing any signage that is threatening, dictatorial, or punitive.  Your customers should be made welcome and signage is usually not welcoming.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.

















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