CHOICE membership

Role of, or Need for a Department of Fair Trading

Over a considerable period, I corresponded with Rheem Australia regarding warranty considerations regarding my three-year-old continuous gas water system. I eventually involved the NSW Dept. of Fair Trading. Their response was

“I refer to your correspondence dated 4 February 2021 regarding Rheem Australia Pty Ltd.

Your concerns were brought to the attention of Ms Natalie Bullon, Customer Service Support Administrator, Rheem Australia Pty Limited, who advised that after having the matter carefully reviewed by Rheem senior staff, they do not believe that your rights under either the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) or the applicable warranty requires Rheem to reimburse you for the costs incurred to rectify your hot water system.

The above outcome to your complaint concludes the dispute resolution process with NSW Fair Trading.

Upon reflection I sent the following response by email.

Thank you for providing Rheem’s opinion.

What is the opinion of Fair Trading?

Concurrently, I “reached out” (as you do nowadays) to our Local member on 3 March 2021. I asked “Your review of the appropriateness of Fair Trading’s apparent level of activity in this case, and their response, would be greatly appreciated.’ In response to a concurrent complaint to the Dept. of Fair Trading, I received a phone call from the Department, which basically said that Fair Trading would offer no opinion about my complaint as this is not their role. Fair Trading does not adjudicate on complaints between traders and consumers. Indeed, traders are not obliged to even deal or co-operate with the Dept. of Fair Trading.

For me, this information raises a significant question. What is the value added by having a Dept. of Fair Trading, and indeed why even have a Dept of Fair Trading?

The following reply was received today.

I repeat my original question. What is the value added by having a Dept. of Fair Trading, and indeed why even have a Dept of Fair Trading?

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A good question.

Welcome to the reality that there is no real consumer protection in Australia. Fair Trading is nothing but a clearing house for correspondence.

If a large organisation chooses to ignore the ACL, they can. And they get away with it because there is no body to enforce the ACL or other consumer rights. The only recourse for a consumer who wants enforcement is to take legal action, but the odds are stacked against the consumer.

All you can do short of taking them to court is to try and put your story out on social media. They may reconsider if there is enough negative publicity.

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It is carefully crafted window dressing for government to make itself look good whilst doing nothing beyond passing paper back and forth. @meltam wrote it well. Some governments job 1 after winning elections is to keep business on their side and this is an example, and seems a bipartisan effort at the end of the day.

Rheem Australia owns a few of our hot water ‘manufacturers’ as a multinational brand owned by Paloma. Their brands, all serviced by one friendly support number :expressionless: include Solahart, Vulcan, Rheem, and Aquamax. Others?

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I would personally rate Rheem as one of the worst businesses in Australia for garbage products and shonky behaviour.

A post I did some time ago in another topic in the forum.

“When I was purchasing the Saxon, the staff member at the hardware store told me that he had asked the Rheem rep why their hot water heaters had such a poor service life. He said that she replied that they were in the business of selling hot water systems.”

That perfectly sums up their modus operandi.

And their reviews on Product Review which are the worst I have ever seen for such a large company.

https://www.productreview.com.au/b/rheem

Now if we only had a consumer protection agency.

Oh. Forget it.

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PS. You can at least post your experience with Rheem on Product Review so as to help warn other consumers about these disgusting grubs.

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Thanks Fred123. Done!

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A couple of things come to mind.

  1. If the hot water service was installed by a third party, did you complain to the installer? If you get them onside they will have a much better chance of getting something out of Rheem as they are Rheem’s customer and presumably Rheem knows that your negative feedback will make some impression on the installer. Possibly to the extent that the installer may look for alternative brands;

  2. A few years ago I recall I had a 2 year old (maybe 3 year old) hot water service (I don’t recall the brand, but it was not Rheem, but I suspect from the same stable) and it stopped working.
    I called the installer and was shocked to hear that “yes you’re covered by the warranty for the parts but labour is chargeable”. I told the gentleman that he is dreaming. What kind of circus is he running offering free part(s) but knifing me in the gut for who knows how much so-called labour charges. Soon enough he said it would be circa $350. I said “really? For a $800 appliance”?
    FWIW I added: “how do I know you didn’t remove original parts and instead fitted used parts on the new hot water tank, thereby creating the opportunity for you to charge me for labour”?

He refused to budge.
I knew I a case.
I had no patience for the long winded process of NSW FT, so I sent my story to (at the time) Radio 2UE Attn: Mr Ray Hadley (who had a high rating radio show, which he still does, now on 2GB).

A day or so later the installer calls me and says that he will trim the labour charge to $150. I accepted.
Note: the story never went to air. I suspect the installer did not want negative publicity. But am sure he was contacted by 2UE.

Moral of the story: hit the ACL transgressors where it hurts - negative publicity, however and wherever you can shame them.

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It wasn’t always like that - ‘back in the day’ companies seemed to fear/respect the fair trading departments. That was before the realised they were all bark and no bite - now they are limp whimper and at best a dribble - and companies know that … doest the Government care? not until enough people come to their senses and realise a whole department is essentially useless. Why limit that to fair trading/etc ? :rofl:

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Rheem A.Rheem7 hours ago

Dear Rabbit
We are sorry to hear about your experience and our customer service team would like to investigate the issue. However, we cannot obtain your information given the limitations of this website. If you could please email your contact details through to rheemcustomerrelations@rheem.com.au, referencing this review, our team will be able to assist you accordingly.

Regards
Rheem Australia


Rabbit

Rabbit6 hours ago

For the attention of Rheem. This matter has been raised with Rheem directly. Your reference is CIR23742. Your reply through this website would be appreciated.

Rabbit

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That is why I love Product Review and Tripadvisor.

Don’t pussy foot around. Just name and shame the charlatans, and forewarn others,.

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When they’re telling the truth.

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I’ve contacted Fair Trading on numerous occasions, and am repeatedly told, they can contact the company i’m in dispute with, but they can’t force the company to do anything. However they like to record instances of wrongdoing to see what sort of trends are happening out in the real world.

I’ve had some wins against Woolies over the last few month, but previously only about half the outcomes of my dealings with them have had results in my favour.

We really do need some government body that can enforce consumer law without us having to go to court.

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It seems you’ve contacted the wrong department. As an ex-shop owner I can tell you this about the Office of Fair Trading; their job is to ensure that traders, retailers, & shop owners in general, comply with the legislation & laws Under the Fair trading Act 1986. The legislation is designed to prevent traders & shops from misleading or deceptive conduct; & from making unsubstantiated claims & false representations about the products that they sell (to consumers). They also ensure that all traders are given an equal footing when it comes to “trading fairly”. They’re not a mediator for consumer/trader disputes; that job belongs to the ACCC, via your States’ consumer protection agency, such as Consumer Affairs in Victoria. The ACCC has certain standards in regards to the life expectancy of products, so if you contact them, they’ll be able to guide you through all the legalities, your rights as a consumer, & where to direct your grievance. Cheers :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks Sallymac. The only problem is that if you access the ACL webpage and navigate through consumers > consumers questions and complaints (NSW) you are immediately directed to the NSW Dept of Fair Trading homepage.

A web search for Consumer Affairs NSW returns the NSW Dept of Fair Trading as it’s first pick, the second pick is Service NSW which immediately refers you to the Dept of Fair Trading if you wish to make a consumer complaint.

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That may be the historic case, but since the ACCC and the ACL, and that the names of the ‘responsible’ window dressers in each state vary, they have been tasked to help us consumers regardless of their lack of authority to do more than pass paper around.

They, and Consumer Affairs, have similarly ‘confused’ scopes at the end of the day, from taking care of businesses to taking care of consumers. All seemingly care about taking care of pollies to make them look good to both sides by keeping their heads down as best possible.

as well as Fair Trading (Qld)

and their brethren in the other states and territory are much of a muchness.

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I found this guide from Legal Aid Qld useful in determining the options, and who to contact. Fair Trading Qld, and the ACCC are not the only options.

https://www.legalaid.qld.gov.au/Find-legal-information/Work-and-money/Consumer-rights/Basic-consumer-rights

EG For disputes involving store refusals of refunds for faulty or defective goods, the suggestion is to take the dispute to QCAT for resolution.

Perhaps the other states offer a similar broad overview of their options.

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I think you may misunderstand the role NSWFT has.
What you claim they said is true: they talk to the counterparty and see if a resolution is forthcoming or possible.

If not then you can go on to NCAT and argue your case.
Mentioning in your application that you did try NSWFT and that failed to resolve the problem.
One of many issues with NCAT is that the judgements rendered in my experience are a function of the Member hearing the case. IMHO, previous rulings are little more than guides to applicants.

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My experience is if you contact the ACCC you will get a boilerplate reply and possibly a reference back to the ACL information on their website, even if you are asking a question about that very same information.

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@rabbittt, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue. If you decide to pursue this via a tribunal and would like some assistance from CHOICE, I can refer you to our Help service.

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Many thanks Brendan. I had a brief look at the Tribunal, and at some of the cases presented in their annual reports and I must admit I’ve been put off from pursuing this avenue because of the very legalistic approach. I kept the part that was replaced by the Rheem authorised plumber and to my eyes, the part appears “pristine”. Is there an avenue to have the part independently examined to determine whether in fact the part is with or without fault ? I watched the plumber the whole time and the only work done was the replacement of the part.

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