Radio interview on 2GB 873AM with Bill Woods
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We’ve been talking lately about the way we’re shopping these days. We mentioned the Black Friday sales weekend and one constant, no matter where or when we shop, is that many of us will do it over the internet this Christmas.
Online shopping’s become a massive business in a very short time, but so have the dangers, because cybercrime has also become a massive business. Much of that is still around people hacking into shopping sites to get your details. I’ve heard firsthand from some listeners and they just won’t do it for that reason. Commercial lawyer Steven Brown has some help to offer.
Steven, thanks for your time.
Oh, thanks for having me, Bill, and listeners.
Now firstly, when you’re looking at online shopping, you need to know, I guess, who’s legit and who’s not.
Yeah, definitely. Bill, so far in 2022, there’s been $475 million lost to scams in Australia.
That’s the statistics coming out of the ACCC so the regulator of consumer law in Australia. That’s just getting reported to them so there’s probably actually a lot more than that.
So we’ve got to be really careful because yes, it’s really convenient to buy online, but some of the things that we should be doing before we do so is have a look into the, you know, some of them are really simple and just logical. That they’re not legal things, but they’re just simple things that we should be doing.
Just have a look into the reputation of who you’re buying from. Go online and have a look and see what reviews have been made. Particularly try and see if they’ve got a refund policy.
Have a look if they’ve got a physical address in Australia because if they’re outside of Australia, all of the Australian Consumer Law is of no value to you because you’re dealing with someone outside of the country and the Australian law can’t reach them. You might get it cheaper, but you might not get it at all.
Have they got contact details to ring them up? Do they have an Australian business registration number?
Have a quick look at their terms and conditions. Do they have a proper policy of dealing with defects?
Are you requiring it before Christmas? And if so, really be careful of that. Because a lot of the time, they tell you it’s going to be delivered by a certain date, but then in their terms and conditions, they say that’s an estimate only.
So there’s a whole lot that we can do simply ourselves.
That last one is a particular one, I think, people tend to overlook in their excitement and that is read those kinds of details. They’re usually pretty visible around the sites, aren’t they? But you do, in some cases, have to look for them. But if you’ve got a checklist like you’ve just given, you need to look for them.
Yeah, and that checklist is available, or something similar to that, on the ACCC’s website. So for the listeners out there, if you’re planning on buying a whole lot online, probably spend five minutes reading that and do a little bit of… Might take you a little bit more time, but at least you’re probably a lot more likely to make sure that your gifts are actually real gifts and they arrive in time for you and your family and friends for Christmas.
What are some of the other red flags? I’ve noticed there are some similarities between dodgy websites and some of the dodgy scam emails we get in terms of typos and graphics that don’t look very clear and they look like they’re just rapidly pasted together, those sorts of things.
I know it’s not always a telltale, but the things you’ve already said are the best, but there are other red flags, too, aren’t there?
Yeah, exactly, and be really careful with… What’s going to happen over this period of time is that all these scammers are going to try and start sending you emails and text messages to say, “Your delivery from Australia Post or FedEx or one of these delivery companies. Click here to find some more details.”
So have a look at the email address. Often these scammers haven’t got an email address from the company they’re purporting to be from.
Don’t click on something on your phone. Go to the actual website of the delivery company because they’ve got a way in which they can tell you about what’s going on with the delivery.
This is going to come up a lot in the next couple of weeks is these scammers are going to try and use delivery of goods to try and get into you.
Now I’ll get onto our rights as consumers because you made the comment there, too, about whether these things are based in Australia or not. We’ll get to that in a minute.
But before we go there, even the legitimate online stores, that is legal businesses who operate like any other business, do they always behave themselves? I mean, even some of those can be a bit difficult to deal with, can’t they?
Yeah, exactly. We’ve seen some of Australia’s biggest companies breaching the Australian Consumer Law. If you jump on the ACCC’s website, there’s a strong history of some of the biggest companies in the world that operate inside and outside of Australia and otherwise reputable companies that aren’t following the law in that regard.
What we have in Australia is this section of law called Australian Consumer Law that provides all these protections and guarantees about goods and services that are provided in Australia.
What are some of the dodgy tricks even the legitimate businesses get up to?
What you’ll often find is that they will maybe oversell something. So they’ll say that this can do this and it can do that, that it’ll be delivered in this amount of time, that it’ll achieve these things for you. And often they might be overstating what either the product can do or what you’ll be able to achieve with the product.
I’ve heard of one business that, and a friend of mine went down this road for quite some months, that sold high-cost items. I won’t say what they were, but they told him after he had ordered and paid a considerable amount of money that they’re out of stock, which I’m sure they already knew, but they still take your order.
Then, of course, they try and talk you into an alternative product or even holding your money as a credit just to keep your money, which they then get to use and you have to try and figure out a way of finding something else that might suit you.
Yep, exactly. One of the other guarantees that they are required to provide is there must be sufficient spares and repairs for the goods that they sell.
Often we see they sell these products in Australia and then there’s some fairly legitimate wear and tear of the product in six, 12 months’ time. Then they say, “Oh look, we’ve got no spares or no ability to repair this product and provide the replacement so you’d have to buy a whole new product.” That’s actually a breach of Australian Consumer Law.
I must say, in this case, the guy who bought it, he eventually got hold of these people on the phone because, thankfully, they did have a warehouse. They did have a legitimate address that he could go to, which turned out to be okay, but they admitted that we’re never going to get that product in.
That’s the other thing, too, because we’re dealing, Steven, with a couple of things here. We’re dealing with, and you mentioned it earlier, some of these sites are based overseas and you have to get the product from an overseas business and that’s where the warehouse is.
But there are Australian-based importers who have a warehouse here, but they get nearly all their stuff from overseas, anyway. So there’s two layers there of difficulty, isn’t there?
Yeah, definitely, Bill. What the Australian companies that import goods have got to be really aware of, and then for us, as consumers, is that if you are an Australian importer of an overseas manufactured goods and the manufacturer doesn’t have a physical presence in Australia, you become seen under Australian law as the manufacturer. If there’s a faulty manufacturer of the goods, you are liable as the importer for the quality of the goods that you are selling to the public.
That’s one of the benefits the Australian public has is if someone imports them into the country and then you buy them from an Australian importer, then you get the benefit of the protections under Australian Consumer Law as if that importer was the manufacturer of the goods.
That’s a good law and it’s great for the customer, isn’t it?
What about buying it directly from overseas, though? You touched on this earlier, mate. There’s a lot of minefields here.
Oh, there is, Bill. I’ve got some clients that deal in import-export. They tell me that the shipping routes around the world are starting to come back to normal so these massive backlogs that we had in the delivery of goods is starting to come back to normal. But that is always a major problem when bringing something from overseas is, are you going to actually get it and are you going to get it on time?
Let’s say that that hurdle is able to be overcome, then we’re dealing with something that’s manufactured in another country where the standards are not the same as the Australian Standards. We often hear around Christmastime that some toy gun or some toy that’s coming to the country that’s been massively imported that that doesn’t comply with the Australian Safety Standards. That’s a massive risk as well that people take on buying overseas, particularly if it’s not a mass product that’s coming in. It might slip through border control.
Now finally, mate, you’re a practicing lawyer, of course, from Lynn and Brown Lawyers. You mentioned earlier that the figure, the amazing amount of money that people are ripping off Australians on a regular basis.
But are we seeing the incidents of scams increasing? Is it becoming more and more difficult?
It definitely is, Bill, and one of the surprising things I actually heard today was that because of what’s happened recently with the Optus and Medibank hacks into the private information is the value of private Australian information is actually decreasing on the black market because there’s so much of it out there.
I don’t know whether that’s good or bad.
It’s really scary to think that we’ve got to this point that there is so much of our information being hacked that the value of that is actually decreasing because it’s happening so much to us.
I think that the thing to note from that is it is happening as much, if not more so than ever so we have to be really beware, particularly at this time of year where that sort of information we might be putting out there more often than other times of year.
Steven Brown, great advice and thank you very much.
Thank you, Bill.
Catch the next wave of Australia’s top talent every week with every match live streamed and free to watch anywhere, anytime. For live fixtures and schedules, visit tennis.com.au/wa.
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[inaudible 00:11:41] what happened now?
She got jewelry for Christmas.
Oh, you’re kidding.
I told you what I wanted, but no, you got diamonds? I have diamonds.
Yeah, yeah. Sorry, dear.
Well, what did she want?
Lips, brow and a wrinkle-free look? What does that even mean?
It means Cosmetique, Brian. I wanted a voucher from Cosmetique.
Should’ve gone to Cosmetique, mate.
Oh, you think so?
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