ACL - Does it work for consumers?

Has anyone had any luck getting a refund under the ACL for faulty products outside of the manufacturers stated warranty period?

I’ve got a high end business laptop, 2 and a half years old, and it’s died on me. My expectation is that such a machine would last more than 3 years (considering that’s the minimum time you can depreciate it over with the ATO, they seem to think so as well…).

I’ve contacted Lenovo about it (who sold it to me), they say the ACL only requires them to provide a warranty for 2 years, which I know it doesn’t specifically say, but at the same time is doesn’t say ANYTHING specific in regards to time frames.

I’ve written to the ACCC and Consumer Affairs Victoria, both say they can’t do anything about it, but suggested I write a formal letter of demand.

Did that, Lenovo replied saying their stance remains the same, I’ll need to pay to get it repaired (the quote for repair is more than the laptop cost originally!).

So, as far as I can see I’m out of options here. Unless I pony up the cash for a lawyer and take it to court. Lenovo wins just because they can say no? Did they win, who was right here?

Such a consumer un-friendly system.


I did not ask for or get a refund, but after using chapter and verse of the ACL on what became a dangerous oven, with clear discrepancies between the original literature, marketing claims and reality, the company replaced virtually every part in the oven except the chassis and display at 2 years out of warranty. [quote=“cameron_eldridge, post:1, topic:13231”]
Unless I pony up the cash for a lawyer and take it to court.
You have met one of the great deficiencies in the ACL. It assumes companies will do the right thing and many will not knowing the chances of litigation are almost zero if not zero.

Reality is at 3-years most computer products are a good generation or more out of date and renewal cycles seem to be 3 or 5 years, business dependent, although consumers usually try to make them last as long as possible.


Unfortunately, I agree with Phil (@PhilT), the ACL is largely empty rhetoric as far as the average person in the street is concerned. State Government consumer affairs offices are the same. They both correspond with you in relation to your rights, but as you said, they are unwilling to intercede to enforce those rights.

I think you and Phil are right, if the company is not willing to do the right thing when you cite chapter and verse of the ACL, you might as well give up on that approach unless you are willing to take them to court.

The other option is to use the business’ social media site, social media in general, and forums such as this to name and shame them. Some large corporations are still reluctant to have their poor qualities exposed to the harsh spotlight of public knowledge and criticism, and will act to rectify the situation.

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Perhaps if they are a member of Choice @BrendanMays could supply them with the Choice Help Line contact address to have them help in this instance. It is more than likely worth paying for membership if they aren’t yet a member.

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CHOICE is has called for key changes to the ACL, including clarifying time periods for cases like the one @cameron_eldridge has described. I’ve sent Cameron a private messages, but for others that may need this service can visit our website for CHOICE Help, or feel free to get in touch here on the Community and we’ll do our best to assist.


I’d like to draw attention to the current spiel regarding your choice of repair, replace or refund if an item is faulty when purchased. I returned a faulty iPhone to Telstra after three weeks to be told they would not give me a new iPhone as their warranty was three days from purchase. The only solution from Telstra was to replace it with a refurbished model. Despite a ruling, and a subsequent appeal to the TIO regarding their interpretation of the ACL, I cannot have my iPhone replaced with a new-for-new one.
So, the moral is…don’t automatically assume that it is your choice when things go pear-shaped.

Sorry to hear about the trouble @helen_55. We’re always keen to hear from consumers about their experiences (good or bad), especially with the Australian Consumer Law. We’ve also put together the following consumer rights tips to help out if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

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It seems that there is some confusion in the ACL regarding what are major and minor failures. You give the example of a vacuum cleaner failing after three months as a major failure. Surely a $1200 phone failure would also be classed as major as I would not have bought it if I’d known it had a problem. I was not offered a new replacement phone, instead Telstra chose to give me a refurbished one. Who knows how old this phone was when I received it. So when Choice tell consumers that it is their choice of ‘Repair, replacement or refund, your choice’, it is not always correct.

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@helen_55 we’ve heard from consumers about issues with the law in practice, such as not being given a choice of repair or replace or general misunderstanding. Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to think a complete phone failure is a ‘major’. Is the issue resolved? If not, you could report it to the ACCC or you may be able to utilise our CHOICE Help service.

Thanks again for raising the issue.

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I have had great success with the ACL on some major issues, but recently I discovered how impotent it can be. Last winter I bought a few packs of dryer balls from an ebay merchant. One of the balls split within a few uses and the seller gave me a pro-rata refund. 5 months on the rest of the purchase also split, a 100% failure rate. I sent an email to the importer, Uniwide, and the ebay merchant seeking replacements having advertised quality, or a refund., and then went to ebay and paypal when I was ignored.

Ebay does not know about the transaction so their systems were worthless, and paypal is absolutely useless making their “guarantees” somewhat amusing. I sent 100% of the problem and got an automated response to respond if I still needed help, but no obvious way to respond to send them what they already had. Time wasting window dressing on their best days and useless in this case.

My email to the importer and seller has been ignored and ebay and paypal are appallingly difficult in this instance, so off I go to Consumer Affairs Victoria. Their website is a collection of good advice, pap, and for some things links in how and where to complain. Trying to use those links can be frustrating. It appears that CAV and probably the ACCC have trouble imagining an on-shore company totally ignoring a complaint, so there is no obvious “what to do when stonewalled” beyond seeking legal advice. That won’t happen for low cost items, creating a bit of a gap in protections. Perhaps some companies understand how it really works and play their game?

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I recently bought a 65" TV to replace my aging (11yo), but excellent 50" Pioneer plasma.

One of the factors involved in that purchase was the fact that even the TV’s that retail in excess of $10,000.00 still only have a laughable 1 year warranty. Now, I understand that Australian consumer legislation provides for an effective statutory warranty for as long as the product is reasonably expected to last. Clearly, this would be longer than a year, but no-one can tell me how long it actually is.

Hence, I decided to get an extended warranty to make 5 years in total, in the full knowledge that such warranties are generally poor value. Because the TV squeaked in under $5000.00 due to a 20% off sale at Myer, the extended warranty was only $299 and was discounted to $199. I thought this might potentially be worthwhile if, say, the TV died at 4.5 years - a very grey area with regard to the Statutory warranty provided by the consumer legislation.

Over the past year or so, I have come close to buying a much bigger, higher-priced TV, but the warranty issue stopped me each time. Extended warranty prices on the higher end TV’s were ridiculous prices.

I think this is a classic example of well-meaning legislation that just doesn’t work. It would be good if companies were required to give an opinion on the reasonably-expected fault-free lifespan of their products, because that would become the length of the warranty under the statutory legislation. As it is, I wouldn’t be in a position to argue in court against a company like LG that a $12,000.00 TV could be expected to last more than 4 years if they stonewalled on a warranty claim outside their ridiculous 12 months and said eg that 4 years as a reasonable lifespan for that TV.

I see this as an area where effective advocacy by ACA to get the government to enact consumer legislation that actually works in practice is desperately needed.

I hope I’ve explained the problem adequately - happy to clarify any aspect if needed.


LOVE The way you think!! Precisely my sentiments!!

So far as I see it the legislation is being reviewed and one of those reviews in the targets are around “reasonable life expectancy”. This equates to cost and reasonable use? (need to confirm this as off top of my head). I believe this is being reviewed. Though am unsure of the intricacies around it.


A while ago Choice did a survey of members asking them what they expected the useful life of a number of appliances to be including televisions. Has this been published anywhere? I could not find it on the website. While not definitive it would be a good start for a discussion. Can someone from Choice add a link to these results please.


Agree with @dogdoc and @Tony_M
Perhaps the legislation review could consider e.g. goods over $1000 in value must have the manufacturer state what they consider to be a 'reasonable life expectancy" - as it currently stands, it is often quite difficult for everyday consumers to enforce their rights with retailers & manufacturers.


Most manufactures have done studies on what they consider to be the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). Perhaps it should be legislated that the manufacturers were required to publish MTBF results and honour any failures under warranty that occurred before the MTBF. Extended warranty could apply after this period. It would certainly challenge the manufacturers to match or beat the opposition.


Hi all,
Yes – the Australian Consumer Law is under review and several weeks ago we submitted our comprehensive report which outlines what needs to change. Extended warranties and product lifespans are part of the report. You can access it via this article:

Kim Gilmour


GREAT…!! That is wonderful - the Consumer’s voice is actually being listened to, and acted upon. It is clearly an area that needs more clarification, so the Consumer is not left unaware of his rights. There are too many grey areas in the warranties area, and it will be fabulous to be finally able to understand fully all of our rights in this area.

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I agree warranties need clarification under consumer law.
One if the key factors driving short warranties is the commission earned on their sale. This encourages manufacturers to reduce warranties as your ‘friendly’ sales man/woman will prefer to sell a product with a 1 year warranty where they can make 50-80% commission on a separate warranty product.

Unlike life insurance the financial services laws don’t require disclosure of how much commission is paid on general insurance products such as warranty. However I believe that if you ask, they are required to be provide this information.


I’d agree further clarification maybe required in relation what warranty periods could be expected, I think these type legislations are written deliberately so it’s left up to the state consumer tribunals to decide what is reasonable use of a product. I think the legislation states something along the lines you are entitle to reason use of the product giving consideration to the type product, the price paid and use, it should be of acceptable quality taking into account what would normally be expected for the type of product, for example a domestic fridge reasonable use maybe up to 10 years, a TV I think would be similar. I’ve spent much time in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) mostly residential tenancy related matter, however I have observe many a situation were a consumer has taken a vendor to task and won, in fact its surprising how many lets say large electronics manufacturers / vendor don’t even bother turning up to a hearing and the consumer is granted orders by default. What would be useful is an easy to search plain English database of precedents to aid the consumer in taking a vendor to task in the event they do need to take action a tribunal. Lawlink and other sites are useful however they can be time consuming and at time difficult to interpret.
In addition such a database may assist consumers understanding what of use of a product they could expect.


I think we need to see extended warranties made redundant or made illegal to sell. They are basically all scams. Consumers need a black and white answer to the question of who pays to fix it, how long it should work and there needs to be a body with actual POWER to force the company or manufacturer to fix the problem without involving the courts and without imposing costs on the consumer to handle the issue themselves.