In the lead up to Christmas, Australia's consumer protection agencies are hitting the streets to check retailers are complying with the Australian Consumer Law, which commenced on 1 January this year.
New South Wales Fair Trading and other state and territory regulators, together with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, are visiting a range of telecommunications, whitegoods and electronics retailers to ensure refund and warranty policies are legal.
Mr Roberts, NSW Minister for Fair Trading, said research showed Australians have in the past been dissatisfied with outcomes when faced with defective white goods, electronic goods and mobile phones in particular.
"Instead of offering a refund, replacement item or repairs, some retailers have shirked their obligations and left consumers to sort out the problem on their own or at the consumers' expense," he said.
"Estimates show consumers incur out-of-pocket costs at just under $1 billion a year in relation to these products.
"Now the Australian Consumer Law has been law for nearly a year, we expect retailers will have made any changes needed to comply with the law and this will improve outcomes for consumers."
By law, suppliers and manufacturers guarantee that goods are safe, durable, free from defects, acceptable in appearance and finish and will work properly.
When consumers buy a service – which could be anything from a haircut to house painting – the business that sells the service automatically guarantees to use an acceptable level of skill or technical knowledge and to take care to avoid causing loss or damage.
The national law enables consumer agencies across Australia to work together to educate and monitor retailers.
In this exercise, agencies will particularly focus attention on retailers that have produced a greater than average number of complaints since 1 January.
Mr Roberts said NSW Fair Trading has held meetings with manufacturers' representatives as well as testing the knowledge of front-line retail staff and will continue this compliance program during 2012.
"Officers have already been examining online policies and undertaking covert store visits," he said.
Mr Roberts said consistent state and national agency coordination and cooperation meant large national retailers as well as smaller local businesses were being checked.