It is important when operating an online business you comply with Australian consumer laws. You should pay particular attention to the rules relating to returns and spam as these are most likely to be applicable to your business. Below, you will find an easy to understand guide on each of these areas that will help you to ensure that your business is compliant with the laws.
The Australian Consumer Law stipulates that customers have the right to request a repair, replacement or refund for products or services purchased after 1 January 2011.
Although customers have the right to request a repair, replacement or refund, you do not always have to fulfil their wishes. For example, these rights do not apply if you changed your mind or you found the item cheaper elsewhere. If there is only a minor issue with the product or service, the business can choose to repair the item for free instead of refund or replace. However, if there is a major problem, the business must provide a refund or replacement.
The guidelines for determining whether an items has a major problem is as follows:
- It has a problem which would have stopped the buyer from purchasing it if they were aware of the problem, or
- It is not safe, or
- It is different from the sample or description. This difference must be significant, or
- It doesn’t do what it is supposed to, or what you asked for it to do, or
- It cannot be easily fixed.
In these cases, you should offer your customers an option of repair, replacement or full refund.
You should bear in mind that it is illegal to display a no refunds sign at your business. It is also illegal to tell your customers that they are not entitled to refunds in any circumstance.
If there is a problem with the product, customers are entitled to return a product, even if it is not in original packaging. Also, if the item is too large or difficult to move, it is up to the business to pay for any shipping or moving costs. However, if it is found that there is not a major problem, the customer can be required to pay the transport costs back.
While it might be tempting to inundate your potential clients with emails and messages about your online business, you need to ensure that you are still complying with the law. The Spam Act 2003 makes it illegal for anyone to send spam in Australia. Spam is defined as the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages.
You are permitted to send unsolicited messages (in other words, spam!) to current and potential clients if they provide consent. Consent comes in two form; express and inferred. If someone provides their contact details including their name and contact details to your online business, then this is express consent. If you can find a customer’s contact details (such as contact number and email address) online or somewhere in the public domain and these details are not accompanied by a statement that commercial messages are not wanted, then this is classified as inferred consent. Once you have consent to send spam, you must ensure that the subject matter upon which you are sending the spam is directly related to the person or business you are sending it to. For example, if your online business provides catering to offices, you should only send your spam through to them if they have provided consent (either express or inferred) and they would be likely to order catering for their business.