Online shopping. When things go wrong!

Online shopping. When things go wrong!

You’ve spent months researching the fastest bike to give you that critical edge, could you be dreaming when you see the latest BMC Timemachine listed on Ebay for a mere $3000?  Like the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

We’ve all heard trackside tales of online purchases gone wrong. Stories where the ordered item never arrived, or when it does turn up its damaged, the wrong size, or is poor quality.  When it comes to online shopping its important TQ members know their rights before purchasing goods online.

Home remedies

For any goods bought from an Australian online retailer, you have the same rights as if you had bought it from a bricks and mortar store.  Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), any item purchased online is covered by ‘consumer guarantees’.

But what about items purchased from a private individual or seller who don’t have their own website, e.g. via Ebay or Gumtree?  Unfortunately in these cases, the ACL doesn’t apply so buyers should always read the seller’s refunds and return policies on the website or their profile before making a purchase. 

Payments and refunds

Read the fine print!  Before making any online purchase, TQ members should check the supplier’s terms and conditions.  Well known sellers should have secure payment and refund procedures in place. For companies such as PayPal for example, there are a variety of ways consumers can file a dispute if they run into trouble with a seller.  But, if you pay online with a cash transfer or credit card you might find it’s more difficult to organise a refund.

What about good purchased from an overseas company?

The ACL may not cover online purchases from foreign companies.  While, legally, you may be able to chase a foreign entity for a refund, repair or replacement of a faulty product, the reality is this may be very expensive and difficult to pursue and enforce.

Companies must comply with the consumer protection laws of their own country.  So, when shopping online from a foreign retailer, make sure you read the refunds and returns policy on their website.

When the wheels fall off!

Members who receive goods that have been damaged in transit may be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement, depending on the extent of the damage.  If this happens to you, make sure you take clear, date-stamped photos before you return the damaged item/s.  The online store is responsible for resolving any issues with the courier or postage service used to deliver the product to you.

Return to sender

Before finalising online purchases its important TQ members check the supplier’s returns policy.  Generally, the online store is responsible for returning the faulty product to the manufacturer for repair.  The store has the right to first check the item to determine the problem and possible remedy.

If the supplier can’t arrange repairs – or is unable to repair the product within a reasonable timeframe – you can get someone else to repair it, and then request that the store reimburse you for the reasonable costs.  Alternatively you can ask for a refund or replacement.

Advice for shopping online

  1. When shopping online, only buy from retailers and sellers that:
    • have a good reputation
    • use high-quality photos
    • provide clear product descriptions and instructions for use
    • clearly state their processes for repairs, replacements and refunds
    • clearly outline their methods for dispute resolution
    • display their registration and contact details (email, phone, fax, physical address)
    • display their systems or methods of security for protecting your personal and financial details; and
    • provide an age-grading on children's products.
  2. Read the fine print, including terms and conditions regarding the purchase (e.g. hidden costs).
  3. Google and shop around: compare different products and prices on different websites. Note their conditions, postage, returns and refunds policies.
  4. Research online product reviews.
  5. Check independent consumer websites such as the ACCCTGA and state consumer protection websites to see if there have been problems or bans based on breaches of Australian safety standards.
  6. Keep copies of all your online transactions in case of problems.

Shopping online is becoming the norm. Don’t get caught out: know your rights and obligations and be sure to get what you paid for.

Maurice Blackburn are the preferred legal supplier for Triathlon Queensland.  For more information on how Maurice Blackburn can get you back on track, call 1800 810 812 or visit



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