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Buying Things

Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (March 2016), but may change without notice.


Your rights


When you buy things like a phone or clothes, or get someone to provide a service like a haircut or car repairs, you have rights as a consumer. These protect you if something is not what you agreed to or were promised. These rights also apply to buying things ‘second hand’.

Can I get a refund for something if I change my mind?


If you change your mind about something you bought, it is up to the store to refund or exchange it. Many stores will accept returns if the goods are unused and still have the tags or original packaging. If you are unsure about the goods but want to buy them, make sure you can return the goods without any questions.


What if something I’ve bought turns out to be broken or faulty?


If there is a major problem with something you bought, take it back to the store and ask for a refund, replacement or a repair.


A problem with goods is major if:

  • It broke even though you used it normally
  • It doesn’t do what the shop said it would
  • It’s unsafe
  • It can’t be easily fixed


If this happens, stop using the goods and take them back quickly.

It’s your choice to get a refund, replacement or repair, not the shop’s choice.

If the problem is not major, for example the goods can be easily fixed in a short period of time, the store can choose to either fix them or refund or replace them.

If you think you should get a refund, exchange, or something fixed but the shop refuses to do this, call the Legal Help Line on  1300 366 424.


What if I bought something online?


If you buy something online, you have the same consumer rights to a refund, replacement or repair if the goods are faulty. Depending on the goods, you may have to pay postage to return faulty items to an online seller.

You don’t have these rights if you bought from a friend or one-off seller, like gumtree or facebook.


If you change your mind, it is up to the seller to accept your return. Check first if you are unsure about anything, such as the size or colour, and remember that you will have to pay postage to return the goods.


If you’ve bought something from someone online and not sure how to go about  getting a refund, exchange, or repair—call the free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424.


Did you know...


Never sign a contract without reading it  and understanding it!


If you’re under 18, you can still be bound to a contract if:

  • The contract is about things that are ‘necessaries’ (things that you need to live) like housing, food, clothing, medicine, or things that help you with your employment or school,  AND
  • You understand what the contract meant for you.


If you can’t afford to keep paying for something and you’d like to try to get out of the contract—call the Legal Help Line.


Mobile phone contracts


You can buy a prepaid phone at any age. You will need to provide some proof of identity (for example your school ID card), including your address.

You have to be 18 to sign a postpaid mobile phone contract. Often young people ask their parents to sign the contract.


If you’re thinking about getting a mobile phone, remember that it’s always a good idea to check the contract for hidden costs and be careful of extra services that add to your bill.


What are my rights with mobile phones?


You have consumer rights when you by anything to do with mobile phones, including pre-paid, post-paid contracts, and handsets. Phone providers must give you clear and accurate information about any of the services they are offering, their advertisements, and what they charge.

Remember, if there’s a problem with your phone or your service or your plan you may be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund. Depending on what’s happened, you may even be able to cancel your contract. Call the Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 for advice on how to make a complaint.


Where to get more help and information


  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – call 1300 302 502 or visit
  • Consumer and Business Services (for complaints about traders or to find out more about your rights): telephone the Advice Line on 131 882  - visit
  • Personal Property Securities Register – visit
  • Energy and Water Ombudsman – for complaints about bills (electricity, water, energy, gas etc.) telephone 1800 665 565
  • Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman – for complaints about telephone or internet service in Australia – telephone 1800 062 058 or visit


The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Victorian Legal Aid and the National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content.