An electronics retailer that made thousands of sales over the phone and then charged customers before they were supposed to will have to offer them all refunds.
Electronics retailer Get Gizmo has undertaken to offer refunds to around 4000 customers who were charged for unsolicited purchases before a cooling-off period had passed.
Its sole-director, Himanshu Bist, made the court-enforceable undertaking following an investigation by the consumer watchdog.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that between February and October last year, Get Gizmo promoted and sold electronics to around 8100 customers around Australia, including many in remote Indigenous communities.
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The ACCC said almost half of those customers were charged during the period of time (10 business days) in which customers are supposed to get to change their minds after agreeing to buy something sold by a telemarketer.
“There are laws in place to protect consumers during unsolicited calls or visits and this includes a 10 day cooling-off period during which a customer can cancel at no financial cost,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said.
“Mr Bist has admitted that Get Gizmo accepted full or partial payment for goods during the cooling-off period, and that this was likely to have contravened the Australian Consumer Law.”
Mr Bist now has four weeks to direct his company to identify all customers whose payments they accepted during the cooling off period and write to them via email or letter to outline their right to a refund.
Although the sales were made over the phone and internet access might be poor for the impacted customers in remote communities, there has been no order made for the company to contact customers via phone.
Written communication stands up better under legal scrutiny than a phone conversation, and the example letter provided by the ACCC shows it is to contain a phone number affected customers can call.
Get Gizmo will have to arrange and pay for the return of devices within seven days, and will also have to wipe the data within seven days of receiving them in working order.
Any items not eligible for a refund need to be returned with a reason for why the refund was rejected.
Mr Bist has five weeks to prove to the ACCC that Get Gizmo has identified and contacted the affected customers.
Mr Bist also has to remain the sole director and shareholder of Get Gizmo for at least three years (unless deregistered) and isn’t allowed to deregister it himself for two years.
He’s also not allowed to be involved in any business that offers, negotiates or enters into an unsolicited consumer agreement for the next five years.
Get Gizmo will no longer be allowed to engage in further unsolicited consumer sales, will have to honour all the warranty claims of the products sold, and maintain a yellow pages directory listing for a period of at least two years.
There doesn’t appear to be any requirement to answer the phone though.
Calls to the company’s listed phone number as well as one believed to belong to Mr Bist went unanswered when news.com.au tried to get a hold of him on Friday.
One went straight to a voicemail with no message and the other has been disconnected.
The company’s website looks to have been taken down as well.
A message was left on a provided mobile phone number that went straight to voicemail.