Know your online shopping rights

Woman looking at dress she bought online

Many of us in Victoria now shop online to save time, snap up a bargain and avoid long shopping queues.

But, what do you do when that dress arrives and it’s blue instead of pink, has a faulty zip or just doesn’t fit properly. Do you throw it to the back of the closet and forget it exists? Or return it and ask for a refund or exchange?

The first thing you should know is there are two types of online retailers – Australian businesses and private sellers. The rights you have depend on which of these you’re buying from.

Buying from Australian businesses

When you buy online from an Australian business you have the same consumer rights as you would if you were in a physical shop. This is because you’re covered by Australian Consumer Law.

By law if the product you receive doesn’t meet one or more consumer guarantees, you are entitled to have the item repaired, replaced or your money refunded, depending on the problem. There isn’t an automatic right to the refund if you just change your mind though. Some online retailers may offer a refund on change of mind purchases (we like those retailers!) so it’s worth reading the retailers’ refunds and returns policy.

Buying from private sellers

Online private sellers, like eBay, are a different kettle of fish. They aren’t covered by Australian Consumer Law, so you don’t automatically have the same consumer rights. Returning an item for a refund may not be as straight forward. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a refund though. If you’ve got a problem with something you’ve bought online from a private seller our resources can help. Before making that winning bid, it’s also a good idea to read the seller's reviews to get a sense of whether other people have been happy with their products and their refund policy.

One extra tip – delivery costs

You may have to pay the delivery costs of a return, so make sure you read the online retailer’s refunds and returns policy to see what you're up for. This can be a hidden cost and is a downside of buying online. See Choice’s take on customer service and delivery costs on returns for some big online retailers; you may be surprised by what they discovered.

Find out more about online shopping refunds and returns on Everyday-Law

This information relates to laws in Victoria, Australia.

This page was last updated on November 19, 2015