Harvey Norman accused of misleading on customers' rights
AUSTRALIA'S corporate watchdog has launched proceedings against 11 Harvey Norman franchisees for allegedly misrepresenting consumer rights.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken action in the Federal Court in Sydney.
The Harvey Norman franchisees are:
- Avitalb Pty Limited, located in Albany, Western Australia
- Bunavit Pty Limited, located in Bundall, Queensland
- Camavit Pty Limited, located in Campbelltown, New South Wales
- Gordon Superstore Pty Limited, located in Gordon, New South Wales
- HP Superstore Pty Limited, located in Hoppers Crossing, Victoria
- Ipavit Pty Limited, located in Ipswich, Queensland
- Launceston Superstore Pty Limited, located in Launceston, Tasmania
- Mandurvit Pty Limited, located in Mandurah, Western Australia
- Moonah Superstore Pty Limited, located in Moonah, Tasmania
- Oxteha Pty Limited, located in Oxley, Queensland, and
- Salecomp Pty Limited, located in Sale, Victoria.
The ACCC alleges that the franchisees engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by making false or misleading representations to consumers about their rights under the consumer guarantee provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
"The Australian Consumer Law provides consumers with rights to certain remedies from retailers and manufacturers when goods fail to comply with the consumer guarantee provisions, including that goods are of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
"These rights cannot be excluded, restricted or modified."
"For example, if an item purchased breaks down within a short time of being purchased, the consumer may be entitled to a refund or a replacement item."
The ACCC alleges that the franchisees misled consumers about these rights by making representations including that:
- the franchisee had no obligation to provide remedies for damaged goods unless notified within a specific period of time such as 24 hours or 14 days
- the franchisee had no obligation to provide remedies for goods still covered by the manufacturer's warranty
- the franchisee had no obligation to provide refunds or replacements for particular items such as large appliances or items priced below a certain amount, and
- consumers must pay a fee for the repair and return of faulty products.
The court orders the ACCC is seeking include penalties, declarations, injunctions and costs.
The matter is set down for a directions hearing at 9:30am on 19 December 2012.
The ACCC has also engaged with industry to educate retailers and manufacturers about their obligations under the ACL.
On 16 October 2012 the ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court in Sydney against Hewlett-Packard Australia Pty Ltd (HP), a wholly owned subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard Company, for alleged contraventions of the ACL.
YOUR RIGHTS EXPLAINED
Businesses can offer additional warranties with their goods and services.
These additional warranties do not override or limit consumer guarantees and consumers must not be misled about either their consumer guarantee rights or the protections afforded by additional warranties.
For goods purchased on or after 1 January 2011
- Where a good develops a major fault, consumers have a right to a replacement or refund from the supplier of the good.
- For goods that develop a minor fault, a consumer has a right to have the good remedied (at the suppliers discretion) within a reasonable time. If the supplier doesn't do so, the consumer can either reject the goods and get a refund, or have the problem fixed and recover reasonable costs of doing so from the supplier.
The ACCC alleges that Harvey Norman franchisees made false or misleading representations to consumers about their rights under the consumer guarantee provisions of the ACL.
Specifically, it is alleged:
- The misrepresentations occurred during the period April 2011 to mid 2012.
- In all 11 cases, the misrepresentations were made orally by employees of the relevant Harvey Norman franchisee to customers.
Additionally, in one case, a misrepresentation appeared on the receipt provided to the customer.