We Stand Behind the Products We Sell
Used by retailers for decades, it’s a phrase that became synonymous with Chandlers, a chain of home appliance stores. It was a promise that appeared on all their adverting and store signage. Sadly, Chandlers are no longer in business and the principle of standing behind the products you sell seems to have gone with them.
Once upon a time, shopping was a face-to-face experience that involved going to a physical store where you could see, feel, inspect and if necessary, try things on before you parted with your money. If what you bought was faulty or didn’t live up to expectation, you took it back to where you bought it from. Provided you still had the receipt, and your complaint was legitimate you could expect to receive a replacement, a credit or your money back without too much trouble or alternatively, it may have been sent for repair. But whatever the outcome, it was the retailer’s responsibility to resolve the complaint with the options detailed and enshrined in legislation called the Trade Practices Act.
The internet has brought us ‘online shopping’ and with the Covid-19 pandemic it’s been booming. Unable to inspect or try before you buy, consumers are left to rely on visual images, brand reputation, recommendations and a good deal of trust. This explosion in online shopping has seen the emergence of a new low-cost business model; one that doesn’t require a ‘bricks and mortar’ store, or business premises. These are retailers that sell online only. They typically operate from home or a small office, employ no sales staff and carry no physical inventory. They use their online presence (website) to sell products they source from 3rd parties. Although you buy from them and pay them for the goods, your purchases are then sent to you by their supplier.
Unfortunately, most consumers only have a vague understanding of their legal rights; something these operators rely when dealing with product complaints, While the way we shop may have changed, our rights and protections under Australian consumer law have not. Rather than resolve complaints, they attempt to remove themselves and refer their customer to the supplier.
Don’t be fooled.
The Trade Practices act applies unilaterally and supersedes any terms and conditions of sale. It does not matter if an item was purchased from a physical store or from an online retailer; if the buyer is dissatisfied with the product, then responsibility to assess and resolve the complaint rests with the seller (retailer). How the retailer is then compensated by the supplier is for them to negotiate.
So, if you have a product complaint, then raise it with the retailer you purchased it from. Bricks and mortar or online store, they are responsible for resolving the matter. If they attempt to pass you off to the manufacturer or supplier, then stand your ground and if necessary, contact the Department of Fair Trading in your State. This won't guarantee the solution they offer will be satisfactory. If not, then again you should contact the Department of Fair Trading in your State.
Good retailers are those that invest time and effort in selecting the products they sell, practice due diligence when choosing their suppliers and set strict quality control requirements. Like it or not – retailers must stand behind the products they sell, and the law requires them to do so.
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