In one of the first major tests of the new Australian Consumer Law (ACL), the ACCC has commenced Federal Court proceedings against Hewlett-Packard Australia Pty Ltd (HP) and is seeking the full range of penalties against the company.
The ACCC alleges that HP engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by:
– Making false or misleading representations to consumers in relation to consumers’ statutory warranty and consumer guarantee rights;
– Making false or misleading representations to retailers that HP was not liable to indemnify them if they provided consumers with a refund or replacement without HP’s prior authorisation.
The Australian Consumer Law (see separate story) provides consumers with rights to certain remedies from retailers and manufacturers which cannot be excluded, restricted or modified. The ACCC says that HP, contrary to these rights, represented to consumers that:
– The remedies available for a faulty HP product were limited to remedies available from HP at its sole discretion;
– Consumers must have had a faulty HP product repaired multiple times by HP before they were entitled to receive a replacement;
– The warranty period for HP products was limited to a specified express warranty period;
following the expiration of an express warranty period, HP would repair faulty HP products on the condition that consumers pay for such repairs;
– Consumers could not return or exchange HP products purchased from the HP Online Store, unless otherwise agreed by HP at its sole discretion.
The ACCC is seeking ‘declarations, injunctions, civil pecuniary penalties, disclosure orders, adverse publicity orders, non-party redress for consumers affected by HP’s conduct, the implementation of a compliance program, and costs.’ (Ouch!)
The matter is set down for a scheduling conference on December 7.
In a story posted on business website SmartCompany, a lawyer is quoted as saying most companies are not complying:
‘Most companies are not complying, including many of the biggest companies who would have ready access to lawyers,’ Sally Scott, a partner at Hall & Wilcox, told SmartCompany.
‘It was only a matter of time until the ACCC took a stronger stance.’
She said that statements by retailers such as refunds will only be provided if a claim is made within 14 days and a receipt is presented, or that there is no refund on sale items, contravene the new law.