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Retailers outed in mystery shop


JB Hi-FiA shadow shop of 80 Harvey Norman, The Good Guys, and JB Hi-Fi stores has found widespread violations of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), according to consumer watchdog, Choice.

The mystery shop was conducted across every state and territory in Australia in September and October.  According to Choice, when asked about returning big ticket items, 85 per cent of sales staff at Australia’s biggest electronics retailers had limited or no understanding of their obligations under the ACL.

“The advice given by major electronics retailers flies in the face of the ACL. The fact that 85 per cent of sales staff got it wrong and 100 per cent offered an extended warranty is very concerning. Consumers need to be wary of warranty advice they are given instore,” says Choice spokesperson, Tom Godfrey.

“Consumers should not be fooled into purchasing extended warranties they don’t need and we’d like to see the ACCC and fair trading bodies investigate these breaches.”

Two Choice journalists posed as customers looking for a big screen TV for around $2500, and asked salespeople if the store had any responsibility should the TV cease to function after the manufacturer’s one year warranty period. Under ACL, the correct answer is yes, however, the overwhelming response from salespeople was that repair and returns would be out of the store’s hands.

The consumer watchdog contacted the corporate headquarters for Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi and found that both companies understood the principles behind the ACL, despite what Choice heard from their salespeople. Both agreed a customer should expect a refund, even if a product care or extended warranty had not been purchased.

The Good Guys declined to answer Choice’s questions about customer rights outside of the manufacturer’s warranty. The 2011 legislation says consumers have a right to refund, repair, or replacement through the store for a reasonable time after purchase.

The time period within which a good should be of acceptable quality depends on factors like the type of good and price of the item.

“A follow up ACL guideline released in 2013 is crystal clear on what a retailer’s responsibility is when it comes to expensive electronics. If you have any doubts around advice provided instore, consult the guide.”

Choice talked to the ACCC which confirmed that leading customers to believe they wouldn’t be able to take a pricey TV that’s out of warranty back to the store is a breach of consumer law.


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