Consumer rights


854000_64508029Earlier this week Inside Retail ran an article stating that the Federal Court had ordered four Harvey Norman franchisees to pay a total of $86,000 in penalties for making false or misleading representations regarding consumer guarantee rights.

There have been nine judgements against Harvey Norman with penalties totalling $234,000. When will they learn?

While verbal misrepresentations are one thing, the harsh reality of instore signage is quite another. How many people reading this article are guilty of breaking the law?

The following signs are illegal, and yet one sees them daily in stores: ‘No refunds’, ‘No refunds after 7 days’, ‘We will exchange, repair or give a credit note but do not refund’.

Signs that are legal include: ‘No refund for incorrect choice’, or ‘No refund if you change your mind’.

There are a number of myths worth noting – the customer is not required to return the goods in the original packaging; the customer does not have to provide a sales receipt when returning goods, they simply need proof of the transaction.

These rules may vary slightly from state to state. I have used the NSW consumer rights, so it may be worth checking if you operate in other states.

Most large retailers err on the side of generosity when it comes to providing refunds. They know the goodwill this creates and are prepared to be taken for a ride by the odd unscrupulous customer. For example, Williams-Sonoma in the States has been known to exchange goods and pass refunds for goods not even purchased at their stores.

It wasn’t that long ago that signs such as ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone’ were used in stores.

And how about ‘If your child is screaming, crying, yelling please take him/her outside’.

Almost every store has some kind of threatening signage.

‘No trolleys allowed, ‘No food or drink’, ‘Surcharge on credit card purchases’, ‘If you break it, you will pay for it’, and so the list goes on.

Have a look around your store(s) and see how many signs have accumulated over the years. Consider the effect of removing any signage that is threatening, dictatorial, or punitive.  Your customers should be made welcome and signage is usually not welcoming.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.



















  1. Avatar

    Michael Ratner posted on May 23, 2014

    Stuart Of course you are right. However the constant onus is on retailers to toe every line and consumers to keep getting reinforced with the idea that they are a super privileged species. Guess what? They are. Anybody out there communicating with consumers as to what it takes to be a good consumer? There are many who really do appreciate all the special services offered them and then there are those that deem everything to be there right. Here's a freebie for everyone.,... One Sign .... reads as follows.... THANK YOU FOR DOING BUSINESS WITH US. IF YOU DO NOT LEAVE 100% HAPPY AND SATISFIED - WE HAVE FAILED. AND WE DON'T LIKE FAILING. And I reckon at the cash register you should have a release form that says I am leaving (put a box for a percentage) happy. If this figure is not between 90 and 100%, please don't go yet .. give us a chance to up the ante. Michael Ratner - Compendium reply

  2. Avatar

    Stuart Bennie posted on May 23, 2014

    Dear Michael, I like it !! I really do and I will be recommending it. Thanks, Stuart reply

  3. Avatar

    Gary posted on May 23, 2014

    Stuart, I agree fully with the basic premise at the beginning of your article. The content of any message in store should be carefully considered, legal and not misleading. But, no negative (reactionary) sign I have ever seen in store has every offended me, or driven me away. The behaviour of other customers has! Unfortunately, not all people entering stores share a common view with the proprietor on how the store should appear to other customers. Nor do many customers have an understanding of the OH&S and health issues involved in their behaviour. Nor do some customers care if their behaviour is offensive or disruptive to others. Any advice on how proprietors can maintain appropriate customer behaviour in store without being negative? Regards Gary reply

  4. Avatar

    Stuart Bennie posted on May 26, 2014

    Thanks Gary. It is a tough one. I guess if the behaviour is over the top one can politely ask the customer to take it easy or leave. reply

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