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31 July 2015

Dick Smith risks misleading customer

The retailer said to take a faulty TV back to the manufacturer.

Retailer Dick Smith risked misleading a customer about his Consumer Guarantees Act rights when it recommended he take a faulty television back to the manufacturer.

Ross Murray bought a 42-inch Panasonic TV from Dick Smith in August 2012. Before the year was out, the TV stopped working and was taken back to the store for repair. The same fault developed in 2014 and again this year.

After the third failure, Ross wrote to Dick Smith asking for a replacement TV, no longer confident the set could be repaired properly.

Dick Smith advised Ross he could return the TV and it would send it to the manufacturer and request a replacement. But it “highly” recommended he contact Panasonic directly and provided a phone number for the company. “With the age of the television, and the fact the warranty has run out, we can only continue to send it back to Panasonic under the Consumer Guarantees Act, so dealing with Panasonic directly may be more beneficial in this instance,” the store manager said.

But our consumer adviser Maggie Edwards said the manager was wrong. “The Consumer Guarantees Act requires goods to be of acceptable quality. When a product is faulty, you’re entitled to ask the retailer to remedy the problem. This TV had been repaired twice and had failed again. In our view, this gave Ross the right to reject the set and request a refund or replacement from Dick Smith. The store risked misleading Ross by suggesting it would be more beneficial to deal with Panasonic.”

Based on Maggie’s advice, Ross informed Dick Smith it was the store’s responsibility to put things right. Several emails later, and more than a month after being contacted by Ross, Dick Smith offered him a refund. He’s now bought a new TV.

Legal points

If a product is faulty and you haven’t caused the fault, the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) gives you the right to go back to the retailer and ask for it to be fixed. Where it’s a minor fault, the retailer can repair the product, replace it with an identical model or give you a refund.

If the fault can’t be remedied or is major, it’s up to you whether you choose a replacement or a refund. A series of minor faults can amount to a major failure, giving you the right to reject the product.

Don’t accept the “out of warranty” brush-off: your rights under the CGA are on top of any manufacturer’s warranty and don’t end when the warranty does.

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