Every time you pay for something, whether it's a product (like a game or an item of clothing) or a service (like a phone contract or a lease on a house) you are entering into a legal contract.
That means that you have legal rights when it comes to those products and services. These rights, known as consumer rights, are upheld by law.
Who looks after your consumer rights?
Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) is the official body that looks after all Victorian consumers and makes sure that their rights are protected. If you have any consumer-related problems, CAV is a great place to start.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also has information about shopping, banking, buying a car or bike, internet service providers and what to do if you want to make a complaint.
Making a complaint
If you think you've been ripped off or treated unfairly you can contact CAV a using their contact forms or by calling their helpline on 1300 55 81 81. If you want to jump straight to making a complaint, you can register your complaint by visiting their Resolve your problem or complaint page and following the instructions there.
You can also make a complaint through the ACCC's Complaints & Problems pages or call them on 1300 302 502.
Your rights when shopping
When you buy things you have a right to expect that:
- They work the way they are supposed to
- They look the way they are supposed to
- They are not broken or faulty
- They are safe
For more general advice about shopping, check out our Buying stuff page.
Refunds and exchanges
If you're not happy or satisfied with something you buy because it doesn't meet the above expectations, you may be entitled to ask for a refund.
You AREN'T automatically entitled to a refund if you simply change your mind about something you've bought (e.g., you just don't want it any more). Some stores may have an exchange policy that lets you swap something you bought for something else of equal value, but it depends on the individual store policy.
To find out more about refunds and exchanges, check out CAV's Refunds and returns page.
Online shopping comes with its own particular advantages and disadvantages. The trick is how to do it without getting ripped off.
All of your standard consumer rights apply when you shop with an Australian online business. Technically speaking, those rights also apply when you buy from an overseas online business, but the process of getting repairs, refunds or replacements can be much trickier simply because that business isn't based in Australia - the rules are harder to enforce in such situations.
For more about shopping online safely, check out:
If a particular product is found to be unsafe they are recalled and anyone who is selling them has to stop selling them. Product Safety Australia has an up-to-date listing of all products - food, medicine, car stuff, consumer and agricultural products - that have been recalled.
Your rights when using your phone
One of the most common contracts around these days is the mobile phone contract. When you own a mobile phone you have certain responsibilities to the service provider, and the service provider also has responsibilities towards you.
Money Smart Rookie has a lot of good advice about what to think about before signing up for a phone plan, including some good tips on Dealing with common phone problems.
Your rights when buying a car
If you're thinking of buying a car it helps to be aware of the common mistakes that people make and the traps they fall into when they're buying a car, and what you can do if you feel like you've been ripped off.
Consumer Affairs Victoria has some good info about what to look out for when you:
For more about buying a car, check out our Buying a car page.
Your rights when renting
If you're renting a house there is a whole range of things that your landlord is required by law to provide. Not all landlords do provide everything they have to - if you think there's a problem you should contact the Tenants Union of Victoria for advice. You can also check out the Tenants rights page in our Housing and Accommodation section.
Keeping an eye out for scams
There are plenty of ways that people try to take your money and give you nothing or next to nothing in return, but if you know what to look out for scams can be easy to avoid. If you DO get scammed, though, there are things that you can do about it.
CAV's Scams pages have info on common scams and how to avoid them, as well as a quiz that lets you test how scam-savvy you are. There's also info on what you can do if you get scammed, including how to dob in a scammer and what to do if you're in financial trouble because you've been scammed.
The Australian Government maintains ScamWatch, a comprehensive website with information about all kinds of scams currently known to be operating in Australia. It also has some simple tips on how to protect yourself.
Consumer Affairs Victoria
CAV offers heaps of advice on loads of topics about buying things, what you have a right to expect, and what you can do when things go wrong.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
The ACCC is the national body concerned with making sure that consumer rights are looked after
ScamWatch has a list of scams that are known to be operating in Australia, and lots of tips on how to keep yourself scam-free.
Product Safety Australia
An up-to-date list of recalled products across Australia.