April 17, 2013

ACCC Pursues Harvey Norman Franchisees for Australian Consumer Law Breaches

In December of 2012, the ACCC commenced proceedings against eleven Harvey Norman franchisees (Retailers) under the Australian Consumer Law. You can read the ACCC media release here.

THE BREACHES

The ACCC alleges that the Retailers misled consumers about their rights when consumers attempted to return faulty goods. The ACCC alleges that staff at the Retailers misled consumers about their rights with statements to the effect that:

  • customers can only claim under a guarantee within 24 hours;
  • the customer would be required to take up his or her warranty issue with the manufacturer;
  • the Retailer would only provide refunds for expensive items; and
  • there would be a transport and repair charge in order to repair goods within the warranty period.

The Retailers face fines of up to $1.1 million.

ACCC CAMPAIGN

In its media releases, the ACCC has made it clear that enforcing the Australian Consumer Law is a priority. Apart from pursuing the Harvey Norman Franchisees, the ACCC has also initiated proceedings against Hewlett-Packard and MSY Technology under the Australian Consumer Law.

TAKEAWAY

On 9 April 2013, the Federal Court dismissed 10 out of the 11 actions by the ACCC, however, it should be noted that the dismissal was based on a jurisdictional technicality. The court is yet to rule on substance of the ACCC case. We strongly recomend that:

  • if you are unsure of your terms and policies in relation to the Australian Consumer Law, you should get a lawyer to check them; and
  • you must ensure that your staff are familiar with the rights that consumers have under the Australian Consumer Law – you will be held responsible for any misleading statements, as was the case with Harvey Norman.