Consumers' Duties

Ruby Hutchison was a champion of consumers’ rights and knew how to do battle and win. While it might seem contrasting to discuss consumers’ duties here, rights and duties are actually interdependent. A consumer ought to be aware of responsibilities as they form a powerful armour in the battle for rights.

Responsibilities include:

  • being an informed and cautious customer, looking into quality, benefits, and costs before making a purchase i.e. opting for good quality, higher grade and longer lasting materials and not always the cheapest option…
  • Never be persuaded by Advertisements, they don’t present the complete picture but put a positive spin even on the most negative of goods and services.
  • Don’t ignore even the smallest of loss, it’s the principle that counts.
  • Don’t exaggerate problems, have genuine grievances. Be fair. Being a consumer doesn’t make us right even when we’re wrong (No, the customer shouldn’t always be right.)
  • Most importantly: insist on a Receipt, it’s essential for any complaints to present proof of purchase. Also keep any other documentation that might be useful for warranties etc.

This are just a few ideas, I’m sure many other Duties could be added by fair minded customers.:wink:


An old boss of mine told me “The customer is not always right, but they’re always the customer. We treat people as people, and you don’t have to cop abuse…be firm, but don’t dish it out either…”

I taught my children that if a transaction goes wrong, they always need to give the vendor the opportunity to make good. Be reasonable, but don’t cave in to pressure. Always be polite - especially when you put your complaint in writing. Assume that a judge will read anything you say. You’ll want them on your side…

The facts will decide most disputes. Make sure you can demonstrate what the facts are.


I don’t think you can say categorically “even the smallest”, this is a judgement call that crosses over with the following item of being fair and genuine. You should not allow a vendor to take advantage of you, to deceive or cheat. On the other hand not every flaw down to minutiae needs a response.

I know people who make it their life’s work to find fault and to then to reiterate their complaints loudly to anyone who looks like they might be listening. That doesn’t help the situation, improve the vendor’s performance or, in the long run, help the buyer.

A word I use in this context is the result must be ‘workmanlike’. It applies to painting your house, delivering your fridge or explaining the details of a product. A slight smear of paint behind a door jamb is a flaw but if nobody will ever see it do you really want to call them back?

A ding in the fridge is absolutely unacceptable but what about a hand-print on the polished surface? A real pro carries a rag for this and applies it when they tidy up. But if they don’t does it really matter enough to complain?

There have been times when I was buying a product that the salesperson was conversant with but, as it happened, I knew much more about. I never felt the need to point out small errors in their spiel. Especially where the inventory is huge nobody can know it all.

We all have to make these judgements. By all means stand up for your rights but be reasonable about it.


Sorry, being ‘small’ cancels-out ‘fair and genuine’?

There’s been a few replies on the forum on various topics which have suggested that taking that particular complaint further wasn’t worth the time and trouble. Of course it is a personal call, but by posting about it in the community surely shows that it was important to the poster, and might also help in the awareness of the goods and/or services provider that a bit of an improvement is needed on their part. I find it interesting that I often just ‘let go’ of minor things, but when I make payments nothing is overlooked and even a few Cents are included and rounded up to the nearest higher amount😉


I don’t think I said that, I sure didn’t mean to say it.

There are cases where making an issue out of “even the smallest” problem would be unfair in my view.

I can pick faults with most tradesmen’s work. That doesn’t mean their work is below industry standard or not good enough for me, it means I can see some flaws. If I wanted work so good I couldn’t pick any fault it would take twice as long and cost twice as much.

Some people do criticise professional work with even the smallest errors. If they are not prepared to pay up it is unfair criticism. Don’t expect to get a Roller for the price of a VW.


Add - do your research.
For example ask around, check reputable review sites, consult Choice buying guides and product reviews. Look at location of retailer (if overseas Aust law may not apply), the retailer’s T&Cs etc.


Excellent point!
It is our duty to be well informed before we purchase or avail ourselves of a service.
I would say that’s our 1st duty, and then
followed by knowing and exercising our rights if all is not well.


While doing some research on the internet I came across product reviews on various items and a few in the mattresses section caught my eye: some of those who were very dissatisfied with the purchase mentioned that the salesperson had recommended that particular mattress.
It made me wonder how much do we rely on a salesperson for advice and is it reasonable to do so?
From my understanding the role of a salesperson includes to locate a product, process transaction, keep the sales floor organised and well stocked; have a good communication skill and knowledge of a product to be able to clearly explain it to the customer and have persuading and negotiating abilities.
Most salespeople are good at their job, but it’s the expectation of a role that they are not meant for which causes most problems if we believe that
a salesperson is:
An expert consultant in the field of the product they are selling
An impartial advisor
Our best friend.
Just like we don’t take advertisements seriously when making a decision to purchase similarly we ought to consider that salespeople are doing the job they are paid to do: convince a customer to buy a product, i.e. make a sale. Although some of their information might be useful, our decision to buy should be made on firmer grounds.


If they are asked for advice and are given the required criteria then I think as a salesperson they should provide the information if they have it. If however, they are unsure then they should seek the answer from someone who does know. The ACL is clear that if a particular trait is asked about and an item is sold on the basis that it fits that criteria and yet doesn’t actually meet that requested trait then it is a major failure on the part of the retailer.

“Guarantees applying to goods
A supplier and a manufacturer guarantee that:
• goods are of acceptable quality
goods will match any description provided

This is further expanded in the ACCC Glossary

" [

Fit for a particular purpose

](Consumer rights and guarantees | ACCC)

This guarantee applies when:

  • a consumer tells a business they want to use a product for a particular purpose
  • the consumer buys the product based on the advice of the business
  • the business advertises in any way that the product can be used for a particular purpose.

In any of these situations, the product that the business sells must be fit for the particular purpose stated.

This guarantee does not apply:

  • if it’s unreasonable for the consumer to rely on the skill or judgement of the business
  • if the business tells the consumer the product won’t meet their purpose, but the consumer buys the product anyway."

I would think that a mattress salesperson should be able to be relied on when purchasing a mattress as they should be familiar with the products they sell, e.g., I would not expect an IT salesperson to be au fait with these mattress products unless they have recent experience with the product,e.g. just changed departments.


Thank you @grahroll for the important reminder of our consumer rights as set out by the ACC and ACCC in case anything goes wrong with the info provided.
I’m just setting out a few ideas on how we should take the lion share of the responsibility when making a purchase. Nowadays I find it very useful to look up a product on the website paying special attention to the ‘Specifications’ of the item, and looking up as much as I can to learn about it, reading product reviews from more than one website and taking the ravings and the rants with a grain of salt, assessing the middle ground.
I find that Choices articles on ‘what to look for’ are the biggest help: those enable me to make the right comparisons between products, and to make proper choices as to what features are the ones that would suit me best.
Of course, Choice testing has always been a big help to me, giving an insight into more than one product that would have been very difficult to have otherwise.
Seeing me with my copy of the Choice magazine in hand while looking over big appliances often makes sales assistants nervous, but doesn’t worry me!


Sorry if it seemed I was disagreeing with you. It wasn’t an intention to do so, but rather to point out that if a business is failing to provide qualified or knowledgeable advice on products then it is failing the duties imposed by the Australian Consumer Law. We should be able to rely on the word of a salesperson in a an area they are selling product in. I know that sometimes (maybe often) we can’t do so. While we need to educate ourselves to what a product might be like, we can’t always determine that, due to issues such as a lack of literacy, of technical knowledge, huge amounts of different manufacturers, or other compounding factors. Reliance then falls to the salesperson we are dealing with and their integrity in the face of questions as to a particular quality being sought. If they don’t know they should explain this and seek to find the answer from someone with the knowledge to answer the question and if they do know the answer to provide a truthful one. Should we accept less than this, we start to impose unacceptable outcomes on people who may not be able to ascertain for themselves whether a product meets their needs.

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Not at all! I welcome a point of view from a different perspective, I always value the input of others and yours in particular, it enriches the topic :slightly_smiling_face:

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