on Thursday, 28 July 2016. Online retailer and breaches of Australian Consumer Law
The ACCC has demonstrated once again that it will focus on breaches of the Australian law by online retailers as much as bricks and mortar stores. Online retailer Ozsale which owns the websites Ozsale.com. OO.com.au, DealsDirect.com.au, amongst others, has this week paid a penalty of almost $11,000 following investigation by the ACCC into claims made on its websites in relation to the consumer rights of its customers.
Ozsale made statements in the websites' terms and conditions which had the potential to mislead customers about their rights under the Australian Consumer law . The Australian Consumer Law is very clear on the rights of consumers in the event of a major failure in a purchased item - Ozsale's terms and conditions , the ACCC claimed, attempted to mislead consumers about what those rights are.
Ozsale stated in its terms " Depending on the fault, you may be offered the choice of refund, repair or replacement of the item (subject to availability) ". The ACCC was concerned that this statement represented that the choice of remedies was always at the discretion of Ozsale , rather than of the consumer , when that is not the case.
The ACCC is particularly concerned about statements of this nature because a consumer would not necessarily know his or her true rights and could be misled into believing that the statement did in fact reflect the law. In addition, as the ACCC has emphasised, businesses can't exclude or modify those rights - through terms and conditions or otherwise.
Ozsale has provided a court enforceable undertaking in which it has accepted that the terms and conditions on its website were likely to give rise to concerns under the Australian Consumer Law.
As well as paying the fine, Ozsales has been required, in the form of a court enforcebale undertaking to take further steps to ensure that such breaches of the Consumer law are avoided in future :-
- it will publish a single refunds and remedies policy to be used across all online sales platforms which ACCURATELY REFLECTS CONSUMERS' AUSTRALIAN CONSUMER LAW RIGHTS
- put into place a compliance program, including training and a complaints handling procedure
- implement a mystery shopper program to provide ongoing monitoring of representations made by customer service staff when dealing with Australian Consumer Law issues.
Had Ozsale taken steps to understand the Australian Consumer Law prior to publishing its terms and conditions on the site , it could have avoided the no doubt significant costs involved in the ACCC investigation . In addition to the fine itself and the cost of the compliance steps outlined above, the publicity associated with an ACCC investigation can not be welcomed by any business looking to build its reputation and establish a loyal customer base.