The ACCC has put telco's on notice to expect greater scrutiny in 2017 as it focuses on consumer guarantees and educating buyers to know what they are entitled to under law.
What are you entitled to if...
- your phone arrives in the mail and does not work
- your phone works when you receive it but stops working two weeks later
- the retailer 'repairs' your phone under warranty by giving you another refurbished phone
- you have your phone screen repaired at a local shop, and 6 months later the phone stops working
- you drop your phone and no damage is visible but the home button doesn't work any more
- the screen cracks but you did not drop your phone
- you've had the phone for nearly two years and the battery stops holding charge
- you've had the phone for three years and a software update causes it to freeze or work slowly
It seems that most of us do not know our consumer rights when it comes to our mobile phone warranty or consumer guarantee, and relying on retailers or manufacturers may not be the most reliable source.
ACCC says some companies "seek to deceive" customers
ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, this week announced his priorities for 2017, saying the Commission would target telecommunications and internet providers, with a focus on consumer guarantees and broadband speed claims.
Sims said some large companies "seek to deceive their customers" about what they are entitled to under the law.
He said the ACCC will investigate how often consumers are told they need to contact a manufacturer to access a warranty for problem products, when the matter is covered by their guaranteed rights under consumer law.
Sims said the ACCC would also focus on tackling online traders, scam artists and subscription traps.
Broadband speeds are target
Meanwhile the ACCC will again target broadband providers. Earlier this year the Commission published a six-point guide for ISPs, after research revealed that 80 per cent of fixed broadband consumers were confused by the jargon around speeds offered by retail service providers such as Telstra, TPG and Optus.
The research was initiated by the ACCC after a 48% spike in complaints to the ombudsman over fixed and mobile broadband speeds; and slow speeds being the number one complaint during 2015-16.
Further to the six-point guide, Sims said the commission would soon publish a best-practice broadband speeds advertising guide for ISPs.
The ACCC is also expected announce news regarding a broadband monitoring program in the near future.
How does Australian consumer law protect mobile phone owners?
Smartphones (and other devices) are covered by Australian Consumer Law which legislates that consumers have the right to expect the products they purchase to be "fit for purpose", and should they prove to be faulty, the consumer should be provided with a repair, replacement, or refund. There is no time limit to these rights with the legislation referring to "a reasonable period of time."
In short, this means consumers are entitled to a remedy under their statutory rights for at least 24 months - and likely longer - whether or not the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.
NOTE: Physical or water damage are not covered by Consumer Law as these are considered consumer mistreatment.