Victoria Minister for Consumer Affairs Michael O’Brien
Victorian Consumers Urged To Learn More About Their Rights And Avoid Problems
Victor P Taffa
Victorian consumers are the best-informed when it comes to knowledge of consumer protection laws but continue to experience problems in a number of sectors, Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien said today.
The 2011 Australian Consumer Survey revealed that most Victorian consumers are confident that businesses do the right thing and will not mislead or cheat them.
However, consumers reported difficulties in a number of sectors including utilities, mobile phones, electrical goods, internet service providers, banking or financial products and clothing and footwear.
“It’s important that Victorians arm themselves with as much information as possible before making any purchase, especially with all the bargains on offer at Boxing Day sales.” Mr. O’Brien said.
“Victorian consumers who have a problem with a product or service have certain rights under Australian Consumer Law, and I urge consumers and businesses to use the resources available to continue to learn about their rights and responsibilities.
Under the Australian Consumer Law, where goods or services are faulty, defective or otherwise do not meet guarantees consumers have the right to remedies such as a refund, replacement or repair.
Among the other findings of the 2011 Australian Consumer Survey:
• Australian consumers spend approximate $14.22 Billion a year dealing with consumer problems;
• The most common problems consumers experience are poor customer service, high or unexpected fees and delayed or undelivered goods or services;
• It costs Australian businesses a total of $6.6 Billion a year to deal with problems where they have a legal obligation to provide a remedy for the consumer (excluding the costs incurred by businesses to replace or repair products);
• Around half of all consumers in Australia will contact a regulator if they have a consumer problem.
Mr. O’Brien said the Australian Consumer Survey was largely positive for Victoria.
“Victorians are savvy and informed consumers – 90 % of Victorians surveyed know that consumer protection laws are in place.” Mr. O’Brien said.
“This is particularly positive with post-Christmas sales about to commence.”
“When consumers know their rights, they can be confident in asserting these rights with a trader.”
“Victorian consumers and business also have the highest awareness rate in Australia about dispute resolution services.” Mr. O’Brien said.
“48% of Victorian consumers and 64 % of Victorian businesses are aware there is a dispute resolution service available through consumer agencies such as Consumer Affairs Victoria.”
“An impressive 97 % of Victorian businesses surveyed were aware of their legal obligations and responsibilities to protect consumers.”
The Australian Consumer Survey 2011 was the first national survey of consumer and business awareness of rights and obligations and was commissioned by the Policy and Research Advisory Committee of the Standing Committee of Officials of Consumer Affairs.
The survey gathered views from more than 5,300 consumers and 1,200 businesses across the country.
In the 2010-2011 financial year Consumer Affairs Victoria received almost 142,000 queries from consumers seeking advice and information on shopping problems.