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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Micallef

Protecting Consumer Rights: Understanding Violations and the Role of Letters of Demand

Consumer rights form the basis of fair and transparent transactions in the marketplace, whether that be in person or online shopping, or dealing with a business which provides a service. Consumers are entitled to certain protections under both Victorian state and federal laws. However, instances of consumer rights violations do occur, ranging from false advertising to defective products. When faced with such infringements, consumers have recourse to legal remedies, often beginning with the issuance of a formal letter of demand. The following common consumer rights violations may necessitate the drafting and sending of a letter of demand.

1.    False or Misleading Advertising

False or misleading advertising occurs when businesses make false or misleading claims about their products or services. This can include false representations about the quality, price, or characteristics of a product. In Victoria, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce.

2.    Defective Products

Consumers have the right to expect that the products they purchase are of acceptable quality and fit for purpose. When a product is defective or fails to meet these standards, it may constitute a breach of consumer warranties under the ACL. Examples of defects include manufacturing faults, design flaws, or inadequate safety warnings.

3.    Unfair Contract Terms

Unfair contract terms are provisions in consumer contracts that create a significant power imbalance between the parties and are detrimental to consumers' interests. Under the ACL, terms that are unfair are void and unenforceable.

4.    Non-Delivery of Services

When consumers engage a business to provide services, they have the right to expect that those services will be delivered with due care and skill. Non-delivery of services, such as incomplete or substandard work, constitutes a breach of consumer warranties under the ACL as well as being a breach of contract terms.

5.    Warranty and Refund Issues

Businesses are required to honour warranty promises and provide refunds or replacements for faulty goods or services as outlined in their warranty policies. Failure to do so can result in a breach of consumer rights.

Letters of Demand

In every instance of rights violation, a carefully composed letter of demand serves as a means for consumers to uphold their rights.

A letter of demand can:

  • demand corrective action;

  • demand compensation for any losses sustained;

  • demand refund, replacement or repair of a defective product;

  • demand the removal or amendment of any unfair contract terms;

  • insist on compliance with warranty obligations and seeking appropriate remedies.

Letters of demand are frequently used prior to commencing legal proceedings as they provide the parties with an opportunity to negotiate prior to going to Court. Other advantages in issuing a letter of demand are they allow for the exchange of information which may result in proposed offers, they may avoid protracted litigation and the expensive costs associated with legal proceedings.

Consumer rights violations can cause frustration, inconvenience, and financial losses however, consumers are not without recourse when faced with such infringements. By understanding their rights and taking proactive steps to assert them, consumers can hold businesses accountable for their actions. In many cases, the issuance of a well-drafted letter of demand can prompt businesses to rectify the situation and avoid the need for further legal action. If you believe your consumer rights have been violated, please contact one of our experienced commercial lawyers for advice.

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