Applying the Australian Consumer Law to tile defects

Occasionally Slique is asked to consult on a situation where the stone or tiles may be considered 'defective' under the Australian Consumer Law.

This is a summary of some of the more relevant parts of the Australian Consumer Law which relate to tile and stone common issues. It is NOT to be relied on for a definitive analysis of any issue or situation.

The Consumer Guarantees Law came into effect from 1 January 2011 and applies to all Australian States and Territories. It is administered by local State Departments.

Readers should refer to the Guide for more detailed information, and contact the relevant State Department for any assistance required. The Guide is available online in PDF form.

The Consumer Guarantees Law takes precedence over any Australian Standards such as AS3958, which have been generally developed in conjunction with industry and are a guide only. Previously, as Standards are not always kept up to date with new product developments and technologies, the lack of clear definition and information in the Australian Standards (for some types of tile defects) has been used as a defence against some problems such as Optical Hazing.

A summary of some of the sections of the Guide are given here. Please refer to the Guide for details.

 

Basic Guarantees

There are nine guarantees in the Law that apply to all goods sold to Consumers: 

  1. Suppliers and manufacturers guarantee that goods are of acceptable quality when sold to a consumer – see page 13 of the Guide for details
  2. A supplier guarantees that goods will be reasonably fit for any purpose the consumer or supplier specified – see page 14 of the Guide for details
  3. Suppliers and manufacturers guarantee that their description of goods (for example, in a catalogue or television commercial) is accurate – see page 15 of the Guide for details
  4. A supplier guarantees that goods will match any sample or demonstration model and any description provided – see page 15 of the Guide for details
  5.  Suppliers and manufacturers guarantee that the goods will satisfy any extra promises made about them (express warranties) – see page 16 of the Guide for details
  6.  A supplier guarantees they have the right to sell the goods (clear title), unless they alerted the consumer before the sale that they had ‘limited title’ – see page 17 of the Guide for details
  7.  A supplier guarantees that no one will try to repossess or take back goods, or prevent the consumer using the goods, except in certain circumstances – see undisturbed possession page 17 of the Guide for details
  8.  A supplier guarantees that goods are free of any hidden securities or charges and will remain so, except in certain circumstances – see page 17 of the Guide for details
  9.  Manufacturers or importers guarantee they will take reasonable steps to provide spare parts and repair facilities for a reasonable time after purchase – see page 17 of the Guide for details

  

Classifying Defective Goods

The Law defines a “Major Failure” of goods supplied as:

  • a reasonable consumer would not have bought the goods if they had known about the problem. For example, no reasonable consumer would buy a washing machine if they knew the motor was going to burn out after three months
  • the goods are significantly different from the description, sample or demonstration model shown to the consumer. For example, a consumer orders a red bicycle from a catalogue, but the bicycle delivered is green
  • the goods are substantially unfit for their normal purpose and cannot easily be made fit, within a reasonable time. For example, a ski jacket is not waterproof because it is made from the wrong material
  • the goods are substantially unfit for a purpose that the consumer told the supplier about, and cannot easily be made fit within a reasonable time. For example, a car is not powerful enough to tow the consumer’s boat because its engine is too small – despite the consumer telling the supplier they needed the car to tow a boat.
  • the goods are unsafe. For example, an electric blanket has faulty wiring.



Remedies for major failures with goods

If there is a major failure, the consumer can:

  • reject the goods and get a refund
  • reject the goods and get an identical replacement, or one of similar value if reasonably available, or
  • keep the goods and get compensation for the drop in value caused by the problem.

The consumer gets to choose, not the supplier or manufacturer.

 

Dealing with problems

In the first instance, you should contact your supplier and advise them of any particular problem you have and give them the opportunity to respond to your complaint.  If required, you can also contact your local State Department for further information on how to deal with any tile product issue you may have.

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