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HP prosecuted by Australian consumer regulator

Tough warranty conditions alleged to mislead and deceive punters

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the nation's guardian of consumer rights and regulator of competition and consumer law, has commenced legal action against HP over its warranty and repair practices.

The ACCC is upset with HP for five reasons, namely:

  • The remedies available for a faulty HP product were limited to remedies available from HP at its sole discretion;
  • Consumers must have had a faulty HP product repaired multiple times by HP before they were entitled to receive a replacement;
  • The warranty period for HP products was limited to a specified express warranty period;
  • Following the expiration of an express warranty period, HP would repair faulty HP products on the condition that consumers pay for such repairs
  • Consumers could not return or exchange HP products purchased from the HP Online Store, unless otherwise agreed by HP at its sole discretion.

Those actions, the ACCC believes, are in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law's provisions that insist businesses tell the truth about their warranty obligations and consumers' rights to receive replacement products. The ACCC has wide powers and is wielding several against HP, with its statement about the case saying it will seek several remedies, including:

  • Declarations;
  • Injunctions;
  • Civil pecuniary penalties;
  • Disclosure orders;
  • Adverse publicity orders;
  • Non-party redress for consumers affected by HP’s conduct;
  • The implementation of a compliance program; and
  • Costs.

If the ACCC wins the case, which will kick off on December 7th, HP will therefore have to pay damages, take out ads apologising for its conduct and get its house in order regarding warranties and how they are communicated to punters.

The case will be heard in Australia's Federal Court, the lowest court that hears matters pertaining to laws made by the Parliament of Australia. Appeal is possible to the Full Bench of the Court and then, under limited circumstances, to the High Court.

HP told The Reg, in a canned statement sent by a spokesperson, that “HP takes seriously the matters raised by the ACCC and will fully investigate and respond appropriately.” ®

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