COVID-19 Information for Consumers
The current pandemic has many implications for consumers and businesses alike. This page is a guide for both consumers and business to understand their rights and obligations.
It is important to remember that consumer protection legislation has not changed. A consumer's right to a remedy under the law remains in place. For more information about consumer guarantees for goods, see Consumer Guarantees.
Statutory guarantees also apply to the provision of services, which must be supplied with due care and skill, and be fit for a purpose made known to the supplier. If the supplier cannot provide the service, the guarantees are unlikely to apply. For more information about consumer guarantees for services, visit Consumer Guarantees.
Common Consumer Problems
Restrictions on the number of people gathering in one place mean that, for the time being, many events cannot go ahead as planned.
For more information about these restrictions visit the South Australian Government COVID-19 website here [link will open in new window]
Part payment for a service, such as venue hire or catering for an event such as a wedding, should be refunded if the event cannot go ahead. Consumers and businesses should consider alternative arrangements. Re-booking an event may be on option, although uncertainty about the length of time the restrictions will last may make this difficult.
A business cannot continue to charge a consumer for a cancelled service. Subscription services such as gym memberships or food delivery services are common examples.
If there is a material change to the service, the consumer has the right to cancel. For example, the gym can no longer provide group sessions in person, and moves to an online service only but does not change its pricing. The consumer may wish to continue to pay for the service, but also retains the right to cancel.
Change of Mind
A supplier is not required to provide a refund if the consumer pays for but then decides not to use the service.
For example, a consumer booked a winery tour. The consumer did not turn up to the tour because of fears of getting ill on the tour. The operator may decide to refund some of the price of the tour, but is not required to.
Travel and Accommodation
For more information about the pandemic and travel insurance, see Insurance.
Interstate and international travel is widely affected by the pandemic. Each provider is dealing with the situation differently. Based on the terms of the ticket, a consumer who does not receive a service should either receive a refund or a voucher for travel at a time when there are no restrictions.
The Australian Consumer Law prohibits the sale of vouchers with an expiry date of less than three years for goods and services in Australia.
Accommodation providers should also offer either a refund or voucher, depending on the terms of supply.
Consumers who booked through a third party provider such as a travel agent should contact the provider first to see what arrangements are in place.
A travel provider cannot unilaterally change the terms of a contract. If the original terms provided for a refund if the services were cancelled, the terms cannot be changed at a later date to remove the term. The provider cannot charge a “change fee” if that was not provided for in the original contract agreed with the consumer.
Scammers are using the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) to take advantage of people across Australia. Please visit the Australian Government Scamwatch website for current information about some of the latest scams being reported [link opens in a new window].
See also the Law Handbook section on Scams.