NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe has urged consumers to purchase gifts wisely as we head into the last five weeks of shopping before Christmas and reminding shoppers and retailers of their rights and obligations under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
“Traditionally, the final weeks before Christmas are when most consumers step up their spending,’’ he said.
“It is also the time when retailers crank up their marketing and special offers. NSW Fair Trading is taking this opportunity in the lead up to Christmas to remind consumers to shop around, avoid impulse buying and read the fine print, particularly on gift cards and vouchers.
“Every year, Australians spend approximately $2.5 billion buying gift cards for their families and friends,” Mr Stowe said.
“There is no denying the popularity of gift cards, they are often seen a fail-safe choice offering flexibility for the recipient. However, consumers do need to pay careful attention to the terms and conditions, whether purchasing or redeeming a card.”
Mr Stowe said that gift cards can be a great choice for many people but they can also be a waste of money and lead to disappointment if not used correctly.
“Some cards have set expiry dates, while others may limit what products or services a consumer can buy. Gift cards should be treated like cash because if they are lost, they can be very difficult to replace.”
Mr Stowe said while some traders may extend the expiry date as a goodwill gesture, they are not legally obligated to do so.
“NSW Fair Trading has received around 100 complaints about gift cards this year to-date. As we head into the busy Christmas shopping season, we are reminding consumers to try and redeem the gift cards as soon they can after receiving them.”
Card expiry is the number one complaint consumers made against gift cards, with other issues such as non-receipt of cards or vouchers purchased online and difficulties in redeeming, also reported by consumers.
Mr Stowe said the ACL sets out remedies consumers had available to them when they purchased defective goods or services from a business and that retailers also needed to ensure they are operating in line with their obligations under the ACL.
“Consumer legislation clearly conveys how and when a refund, repair or replacement is to be provided. For example, ‘no refunds’ are unlawful because they imply it is not possible to get a refund under any circumstance – even when there is a major problem with the goods or service,” he said.
“It may come as a surprise to consumers to learn that retailers are not obliged to provide a refund, if a consumer simply changes their mind about the purchase. Many do provide this facility as a goodwill gesture, however, check the refund policy of the store before you make a purchase and hold on to receipts as you are likely to be asked for proof of purchase when returning goods.
“At this time of year there are a lot of tempting offers. Be sure to check the terms and conditions before making purchases.”
Mr Stowe encouraged shoppers to contact the retailer in the first instance if issues arise but if further assistance is required, consumers may contact Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or lodge a complaint at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au