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The operators of the Nokia Care Centres in Australia have been slammed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission after they tried to sign up a consumer to a service contract when all they wanted was a battery replacement.

The ACCC claim that consumers would do better to exercise their warranty and refunds rights at Nokia Care Centres.  

The ACCC has accepted administrative undertakings from Fone Care Pty Ltd, which operates Nokia Care Centres throughout Australia, and Nokia Australia Pty Ltd.
  
The ACCC became aware that a consumer had attempted to return a faulty Nokia mobile phone battery to a Nokia Care Centre and was asked to sign a service agreement. In the ACCC’s view, the agreement: restricted consumers’ rights to make a statutory warranty claim to within three months of purchase required that consumers accept Nokia’s decision with regard to any statutory warranty claim with no right to take any action if a consumer disagreed with the decision, and  required consumers to agree to allow personal information to be disclosed to third parties.

In the course of the investigation the ACCC discovered that the agreement had been authorised by Nokia Australia. It also emerged that a refund policy had been displayed at Nokia Care Centres which represented that there was a 14 day time limit on statutory warranty claims and that Nokia Australia had been unaware of the use of the policy. 

The ACCC raised its concerns with Nokia Australia and Fone Care that the agreement and the refund policy misrepresented consumers’ statutory warranty rights.   In response to the ACCC’s concerns, Fone Care undertook to:

cease using the refund policy
cease using the service agreement in its current form, and
refrain from making false or misleading representations in relation to consumers’ statutory warranty rights in the future.
Nokia Australia also responded to the concerns and has undertaken to refrain from authorising Fone Care to use any agreement, policy or other document that makes false or misleading representations in relation to consumers’ statutory warranty rights in the future.

“Consumers are fortunate to have a broad range of technical products to choose from and some of these products are becoming increasingly complex,” ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.  “It is more important than ever that consumers know what their statutory warranty rights are and that manufacturers and retailers do not mislead consumers about these rights.”

In January 2010 the ACCC accepted court enforceable undertakings from Vodafone Hutchison Australia after an investigation into alleged misrepresentations about consumers’ rights to a remedy for faulty mobile phones. 

Information about consumers’ statutory warranty rights and the obligations and responsibilities of manufacturers and retailers in relation to those rights can be found in the ACCC publication Warranties and refunds – a guide for consumers and business.

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