The national consumer guarantee laws protect your rights when you buy goods and services – including your rights to repairs, replacements and refunds. It is important to know that you have rights under these consumer guarantees even if you do not have a warranty or extended warranty. You can claim compensation from a supplier or manufacturer for consequential loss when goods or services fail to meet the consumer guarantee. A consequential loss is your cost in time and money because something went wrong with the goods or services.

A supplier may have to compensate you for losses that:

•   could have been expected to result from a failure to meet a consumer guarantee, and
•   were reasonably foreseeable.

In other words, you can get compensation for losses that would likely result from the supplier’s failure to meet the guarantee.

They would not have to pay for:

•   problems unrelated to their conduct or the goods they supplied, and/or
•   losses caused by something completely independent of their business, after the goods left their control

For example, a consumer recently bought a car, which leaked oil on her driveway. A neighbour’s dog ran through the oil and into her house, dirtying the carpet. The car dealer would not have to pay for carpet cleaning, as the dealer could not predict that a dog would run through the oil and into the house – the cost was not reasonably foreseeable.

Conversely, a consumer’s washing machine breaks down due to a fault. As a result, there is water damage to carpet in part of the house. The supplier will be responsible for the cost of replacing the carpet damaged by flooding from the faulty washing machine.

It can be hard to put a dollar figure on consequential loss. Compensation should put you in the position you would have been in if the goods or services had met the consumer guarantees.

For example, a consumer used a liquid cleaner according to instructions on the pack to remove a stain on her new curtains. The curtains were badly damaged as a result. As the curtains were new, the supplier would probably have to meet the cost of replacement. However, the compensation amount would be less for curtains in poorer condition.

A supplier cannot write a term into a sales contract that says they will not be responsible for any such loss, unless:

•   the goods or services were sold to you for use in your business, and
•   the term was brought to your attention at the time of sale.

If they attempt to do so, they may be misleading you about your legal right to compensation. Misleading conduct is unlawful under the Australian Consumer Law and penalties apply to such conduct.

A supplier or manufacturer does not have to put a situation right when they did not meet consumer guarantees due to something:

•   someone else said or did, unless it was their agent or employee, or
•   beyond human control that happened after the goods or services were supplied to you.

Here at The Quinn Group our experienced team of lawyers can assist you in claiming compensation under the consumer guarantee laws. If you have queries regarding consumer guarantees, or for any other legal advice submit an online enquiry or call us on 1300 QUINNS (784 667) or +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment.