ELEVEN Harvey Norman franchisees face fines of up to $1.1 million for giving customers misleading information about their right to claim a refund or replace faulty products.
Consumers who purchased mobile phones, laptops, refrigerators and espresso machines that developed faults were told they had to pay for repairs or wait for manufacturers to provide a refund, documents lodged with the Federal Court in NSW show.
A store in Bundall, Queensland, allegedly told a customer trying to replace a faulty laptop worth $1200 that Harvey Norman could not do anything until it was contacted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Other consumers were told Harvey Norman did not give refunds, or only exchanged products worth less than $300, or that they would only get refunds if the retailer received the money from the manufacturer first.
However, the Competition and Consumer Act applies to the retailer.
The ACCC launched legal action against the owners of Harvey Norman stores in Launceston and Moonah, Tasmania, Albany and Mandurah in Western Australia, Hoppers Crossing and Sale in Victoria, Bundall, Ispwich and Oxley in Queensland, and Campbelltown and Gordon in NSW.
"The Australian Consumer Law provides consumers with rights to certain remedies from retailers and manufacturers when goods fail to comply with the consumer guarantee provisions, including that goods are of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold," the ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said.
Each contravention carries a potential infringement notice fine of $6600 or penalty of $1.1 million. Consumers have the right to ask for repairs, replacement or a refund if goods are faulty, unsafe, look unacceptable or do not do what they are supposed to do.