Goods

New Consumer Laws for services apply from 9 June 2019

In our April 2018 blogpost, we provided a brief summary of some of the key requirements under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) that apply to goods and services and the requirements of any warranties as to defects over and above the consumer guarantees created by the ACL. New consumer laws for services apply from 9 June 2019… 

A “warranty as to defects” is a statement made to a consumer made at or around the time of supply to rectify defects or to compensate the consumer, with a “consumer” being a person or business acquiring goods or services either:
 
  • costing less than $40,000; or
  • costing more than that amount but being ordinarily acquired for domestic, household or personal use or consumption; or
  • if the goods are a vehicle or trailer.

The mandatory text for any warranties as to defects in relation to the supply of goods only remains unchanged:

“Our goods come with guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law. You are entitled to a replacement or refund for a major failure and compensation for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage. You are also entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced if the goods fail to be of acceptable quality and the failure does not amount to a major failure.”

From 9 June 2019 however, there are new mandatory text requirements for warranties against defects when supplying services or when supplying goods with services.

Businesses that do not comply risk fines of up to $50,000 for companies and $10,000 for individuals per breach.

Any document evidencing any warranty against defects in relation to the supply of services only must state:

“Our services come with guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law. For major failures with the service, you are entitled:
  • to cancel your service contract with us; and
  • to a refund for the unused portion, or to compensation for its reduced value.

You are also entitled to be compensated for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage.

If the failure does not amount to a major failure, you are entitled to have problems with the service rectified in a reasonable time and, if this is not done, to cancel your contract and obtain a refund for the unused portion of the contract.”

and the mandatory text for the supply of goods and services is:

“Our goods and services come with guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law. For major failures with the service, you are entitled
  • to cancel your service contract with us; and
  • to a refund for the unused portion, or to compensation for its reduced value
You are also entitled to choose a refund or replacement for major failures with goods. If a failure with the goods or a service does not amount to a major failure, you are entitled to have the failure rectified in a reasonable time. If this is not done you are entitled to a refund for the goods and to cancel the contract for the service and obtain a refund of any unused portion. You are also entitled to be compensated for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage from a failure in the goods or service.”

If your business supplies services or goods and services, then it is likely that you need to update the mandatory text into your Terms and Conditions or your Contracts with your customers.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal.

For further information in relation to these new consumer laws, consumer rights or any business or commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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The Australian Consumer Law (ACL)

Since 2011, businesses that provide goods (whether by selling or leasing them) or services to consumers in Australia must comply with certain consumer guarantees (as do manufactures and importers) imposed by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Businesses must provide these ACL guarantees automatically, regardless of any other warranties they give to you or sell you.

Who is a consumer?

A person – including a business – will be considered a “consumer” if:

  1. they purchase goods or services that cost less than $40,000;
  2. the goods or services cost more than $40,000, but they are of a kind ordinarily acquired for domestic, household or personal use or consumption; or
  3. the goods are a commercial road vehicle or trailer used primarily to transport goods on public roads.

CONSUMER GUARANTEES – GOODS

Businesses that sell goods guarantee that those goods:

  • are of acceptable quality – safe, lasting, have no faults, look acceptable and do all the things someone would normally expect them to do;
  • are fit for any purpose that the consumer made known to the business before buying (either expressly or by implication), or the purpose for which the business said it would be fit for;
  • have been accurately described;
  • match any sample or demonstration model;
  • satisfy any express warranty (ie, anything promised by the business about the goods);
  • have a clear title, unless you otherwise advise the consumer before the sale;
  • come with undisturbed possession, so no one has the right to take the goods away from or to prevent the consumer from using them;
  • are free from any hidden securities or charges; and
  • have spare parts and repair facilities reasonably available for a reasonable period of time, unless the consumer is advised otherwise.

Manufacturers and importers guarantee that their goods:

  • are of acceptable quality;
  • have been accurately described;
  • satisfy any manufacturer’s express warranty; and
  • have spare parts and repair facilities reasonably available for a reasonable period of time, unless the consumer is advised otherwise.

What happens if these guarantees regarding goods aren’t met?

If a business sells a good to a customer that fails to meet one or more of the above consumer guarantees, they are entitled to a remedy – either a repair, replacement or refund and compensation for any consequential loss – depending on the circumstances.

Minor problems

Generally, if the problem is minor, the business can choose whether to remedy the problem with a replacement, repair or refund. If business chooses to repair and it takes too long, the consumer can get someone else to fix the problem and ask the business to pay reasonable costs, or reject the good and get a full refund or replacement.

Major problems

If the problem is major or can’t be fixed, the consumer can choose to:

  • reject the goods and obtain a full refund or replacement, or
  • keep the goods and seek compensation for the reduction in value of the goods.

What is “minor” and what is “major” when considering goods?

A purchased item has a major problem when it:

  • has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying the good if they had known about it;
  • is unsafe;
  • is significantly different from the sample or description;
  • doesn’t do what the business said it would, or what the consumer asked for and can’t easily be fixed.

Gift recipients are entitled to the same rights as consumers who bought the goods directly.

A business can’t refuse to provide a remedy if the good is not returned in its original packaging.

The buyer also must not refuse to deal with a customer about the returned good and tell them to deal with the manufacturer instead (however a manufacturer can be approached directly by the consumer).

CONSUMER GUARANTEES – SERVICES

Businesses that supply services to consumers guarantee that those services will be:

  • provided with due care and skill;
  • fit for any specified purpose (express or implied); and
  • provided within a reasonable time (when no time is set).

What happens if these guarantees regarding services aren’t met?

If a business sells a customer a service that fails to meet one or more of the consumer guarantees, the consumer is entitled to a remedy – for example, a refund, a further service to rectify the problem and in some circumstances compensation for consequential loss. The service provider must then provide the appropriate remedy.

Minor problems

If the problem is minor and can be fixed, the business can choose how to fix the problem.

The consumer cannot cancel and demand a refund immediately. The business must have an opportunity to fix the problem. If the repairs take too long, the consumer can get someone else to fix the problem and ask the business to pay reasonable costs, or cancel the service and get a refund.

Major problems

If the problem is major or can’t be fixed, the consumer can choose to:

  • terminate the contract for services and obtain a full refund; or
  • seek compensation for the difference between the value of the services provided compared to the price paid.

What is a “major” problem when looking at services?

A purchased service has a major problem when it:

  • has a problem that would have stopped someone from purchasing the service if they had known about it;
  • is substantially unfit for its common purpose, and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time;
  • does not meet the specific purpose the consumer asked for and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time; or
  • creates an unsafe situation.

EXCEPTIONS

A business may not be required to provide a remedy if a consumer:

  • simply changes their mind, decides they do not like the purchase or has no use for it;
  • discovers they can buy the goods or services more cheaply elsewhere; or
  • has misused the goods in a way that caused the issue or damaged the goods by using them in a way that was unreasonable.
  • knew of or was made aware of the fault before they bought the good;
  • asked for a service to be done in a certain way against the advice of the business.

HOW CAN BUSINESSES HELP THEMSELVES?

Although the consumer guarantees cannot be contracted out of, businesses can take steps to limit its effect, such as:

  • Putting in place appropriate Terms of Trade that confirm the understanding of the parties as to things that can often cause issues like time for delivery (as opposed to the unclear “reasonable” time), imposing obligations on the consumers as to how to properly use the goods/services and so on;
  • Putting in place appropriate workplace policies and employment contracts that limit the “promises” that sales staff may make about goods or services being sold;
  • Considering marketing and product/service detailed material so as to ensure the descriptions and promises about the goods and services are clear and correct and not misleading or likely to cause complaints.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to consumer rights, business or commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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The importance of proper Terms of Trade for your business

DOES YOUR BUSINESS EVEN HAVE ANY TERMS OF TRADE? IF SO, ARE THEY ADEQUATE (AND UP TO DATE)?

We all sell goods and services, but do we ever really stop and think about what it takes to have a valid contract? There are 4 essentials at law, namely:

  1.  Offer – what is being sold
  2. Consideration – the price
  3. Intention to legal consequences – this is presumed at law
  4. Acceptance – agreement to purchase

Even buying a bottle of water for $1 is entering into a contract. We know what is on offer, we know the cost, we know that once we pay the price, ownership changes hands and it is accepted by paying the price.

Certain things cannot be sold without a written and signed contract in a very specific format that contains certain prescribed documents and words – such as a contract for the sale of land. Most things however don’t need that sort of detailed documentation to form a legally effective and binding contract

Most T&Cs are terribly inadequate. Often they are just copied and pasted from other documents and not tailored, leaving businesses thinking they are adequately protected when they really are not.

Most businesses that have Terms of Trade have terribly inadequate ones and often, the terms don’t form part of the deal at all as they are notified too late – for example where they are printed on the back of a receipt after the deal is concluded. The Terms need to be agreed before the deal is done.

WHAT SHOULD BE IN YOUR TERMS OF TRADE?

Here is a some of the things that should at least be considered for Terms:

  • Parties names and details – Use proper names (a business name is not a legal entity). Who is the buyer/seller?
  • Quotes/estimates – Is it fixed price or based on hourly rates or quantities?
  • How is the offer accepted – Payment, signature, purchase order, ticking a box to acknowledge the terms and then clicking ‘submit’ for online businesses
  • Exclusivity – Is there any obligation not to deal with or sell to others?
  • Term – Is there a fixed term for the arrangement or is it ongoing?
  • Renewal – How can it be renewed and for what term?
  • Obligations – What other obligations (if any) do the parties have to each other?
  • Title – When does ownership to the goods actually pass?
  • Risk – Who is responsible for the goods whilst in transit?
  • Insurance – Who is to take it out? For what amount? To cover what risks?
  • Payment – How much? When is it due? How is it to be paid?
  • Interest – What is the consequence for paying late? What about liquidated damages?
  • Security – What security (if any) is provided to secure late/non-payment? Charge, Mortgage, PPSR Security Interest? Is a director to guarantee a company’s obligations?
  • Termination – On what basis? On what notice?
  • Notices – How are they given and what period of notice is required?
  • Obligations on termination – Return of goods, payment in full of all amounts due etc
  • Limitation of liability – To what extent is it limited? What liability can’t be excluded?
  • Releases and indemnities – What things may be covered by a release and what events is one party entirely responsible for?
  • Privacy – How is private information to be dealt with? Can you use their details to market other goods to them?
  • Warranties – What promises have been made about the product?
  • Entire agreement – is this agreement intended to cover the field regarding the parties’ dealings? Or are there numerous contracts that operate on other terms?
  • Force majeure – What happens if the parties can’t comply through no fault of their own, like a strike, accident or inclement weather?
  • Dispute resolution – What do the parties need to do to resolve a dispute? Mediate? Get an expert? Can they go to court without doing this?
  • Jurisdiction and governing law – which law applies and which court will hear any dispute? Really important for online trading!
  • Delegation – Can a party delegate their role to a third party? How? Do they need approval?
  • Assignment – Can a party assign the benefit of the contract to someone else?
  • Confidentiality – Are the terms of the deal to be kept secret? Are staff also to be restrained?
  • Intellectual property – Who owns the IP? How is it to be used/returned?

If you buy, hire, sell or on-sell goods or services, whether through a shopfront or on-line (or you have a client that does so), please consider whether they actually even have any Terms and Conditions of Trade or if they do, whether they are adequate.

If they do have T&Cs, it may be that they simply copied and pasted various parts from other documents and websites they had seen. This can often lead to them mistakenly thinking they are adequately protected when they actually are not.

They may need to be updated to reflect recent changes in the law such as the Australian Consumer Law and the Personal Property Securities Act (or if they refer to legislation that doesn’t even exist anymore! (Such as the old Corporations Law and the Trade Practices Act).

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to starting or buying a business, drafting business documents or any other commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.