Steinhoff Asia Pacific Pty Ltd (Steinhoff), trading as Freedom Furniture, has paid penalties totalling $25,200 after the ACCC issued it with two infringement notices for alleged false or misleading representations to customers about their consumer guarantee rights.
The infringement notices were issued after Steinhoff published the following statement on the Freedom Furniture website in August and September 2019: “Furniture items cannot be returned or exchanged, except at Freedom’s absolute discretion.”
The ACCC had reasonable grounds to believe Freedom Furniture contravened the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by making this alleged false or misleading representation.
The ACCC was concerned that the representation was likely to have given the impression that consumers could not return or exchange faulty furniture items unless Freedom Furniture allowed them to do so, when that is not the case under the ACL consumer guarantees.
“Retailers must not misrepresent consumer guarantee rights to their customers,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“Under the Australian Consumer Law consumers have the right to ask for their choice of a repair, replacement or refund when they have purchased a product that has a fault which amounts to a major failure.”
Steinhoff Asia Pacific Pty Ltd is Australia’s second-largest furniture retailer, with brands including Freedom Furniture, Fantastic Furniture, Bay Leather Republic, Original Mattress Factory, Plush, and Snooze. The conduct of concern relates only to the Freedom Furniture brand.
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
The ACCC can issue an infringement notice when it has reasonable grounds to believe a person or business has contravened certain consumer protection laws.