Australian Consumer Law: Tips in returning unwanted Christmas gifts

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Shoppers walk past a reflection of a Santa Claus in the window of the Apple Store in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts November 28, 2008.
Shoppers walk past a reflection of a Santa Claus in the window of the Apple Store in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts November 28, 2008. Reuters/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES)

Christmas is a time for giving, and while people are busy exchanging gifts, some may have purchased or received unwanted presents. For those looking to return gifts, having knowledge of the Australian Consumer Law helps.

Speaking with ABC Radio Melbourne, lawyer Katie Miller said that people must know that consumer rules are no different during Christmas. "It's the Australian Consumer Law, this is actually a federal law and the shops are bound by these things,” she said.

Miller assured that an item that is faulty or does not do what it is meant to do can be returned no matter what season. For instance, a phone that does not make calls or a television that does not switch on can be returned any time.

Even items that fail to match the advertised description can be returned. Miller said she specifically thinks this particular example applies if shoppers are purchasing stuff from the internet. She even provided an example, citing a piece of furniture purchased based on its advertised dimensions but does not fit the spot it was intended to be in due to measuring errors.

Another example is a lamp received as a Christmas gift that has stopped working on New Year's Day. According to the Australian Consumer Law, an item that fails to last a reasonable amount of time can be returned.

But Miller noted that it actually depends “on what you’re buying.” She said that a reasonable time for a mobile device will be different to what is a reasonable period for a fidget spinner. Her advice for those looking to return an item is to "act promptly.” She suggested that the store where the item was bought may want to resell it. Miller also recommends keeping the item in its original packaging and getting back to them as quickly as possible.

Those who have received unwanted Christmas gifts may have a more challenging time returning them if they do not have a receipt. But even if the receipt is available, Miller said there is no obligation for the store to take back an item simply because somebody does not like it.

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