Cooling off periods don't work

Howdy ya’ll,

Consumer Action has just gotten some research done which has confirmed a long suspicion we’ve had - cooling off periods don’t work:

The crux of the research is that once a salesperson has pressured us into buying something, we’re highly unlikely to change our minds, even if the product/service is crappy/not in our best interests. Basically we’re either pig-headed and don’t want to admit we were sold something crappy or we’re too ashamed to go back and cancel the contract.

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, and people who have successfully used cooling off periods, but for the majority of Australians they just don’t work!

Keen to hear your thoughts!


Did your research indicate that it was essentially pride that influenced people not to invoke their rights under the cooling off period? If it was me, the more likely reasons would be:

  1. The value of the item did not justify the trouble of attempting to enforce the cooling off period;
  2. The seller to make it difficult to return the item; or
  3. The cooling off period is too short. For example if you take on an internet service or similar perhaps you don’t realise you have been sold a dud until you receive you first bill. Too late then!

It’s not clear from your post whether the issue of why cooling periods were not working for the consumer was fully reasearched. Consequently if you know why you it is not working you may be in a better position to recommend changes to the law to make it more effective.

While there may be some truth in the shame job theory, cooling-off periods are too short to be of any significant value. As noted earlier in this post, by the time it becomes obvious the goods or service is a dud, the cooling has gone cold.

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Hi Albie,

The researcher has released these as headline results, with a full report to come soon, so we can expect more detail in coming months. (I should clarify, we didn’t conduct the research, we commissioned it)

You might be interested in the policy brief that explains a bit more detail

It was a behavioural experiment that found people were extremely unlikely to change their minds. We don’t quite have the depth of the data yet, so there may be scope for more research looking at your questions in future. Good questions to consider.

Anyone following this might be interested in this article written by the researcher Paul Harrison: