As black Friday sales sweep across Australia, consumers have been warned to be wary of fake discounts, scams and dodgy overseas sellers – all of which rise during the sale frenzy.
The US-inspired shopping day has established a firm foothold in the local market, across online and traditional retail. But Choice and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have warned Australians that sales are a prime time for exploitation and illegal conditions such as “no refunds”.
Jonathan Brown from Choice said consumers should remember that black Friday is just branding.
“Whether it’s click frenzy, black Friday or cyber Monday, the sales tricks used to get us to part with our money are really just a twist on classic sales techniques,” he told Guardian Australia. “It’s all about creating an inflated or artificial sense of urgency so you rush into spending decisions.
“It’s worth remembering that often sale items are products that have been collecting dust in warehouses. These sales are really about getting dud models or stock out of retailers’ inventories.”
The sense of “impulsive purchasing” can also make consumers more susceptible to sales tricks.
Delia Rickard, the deputy chair of the ACCC, said the regulator had seen a huge explosion in online shopping scams this year.
“We’ve had around 8,000 reported incidents this year, and $4m reported loss,” she said. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Most people don’t report.”
Black Friday purchases from Australian retailers are subject to the same consumer law as on any other day. .
“By branding these sales as something special or once-off some retailers may try to suggest your consumer rights are voided as a result,” Brown said. “ ‘No refund on sales’ stipulations are illegal in Australia. We suggest brushing up on your consumer rights before key sales periods and complain to the ACCC if you see particularly egregious practices.”
Buying from overseas could provide less protection.
“If you’re accessing black Friday deals from overseas jurisdictions you may find it difficult to assert your rights if the company has no Australian base,” Brown said.
Choice have put out a guide to black Friday and consumer rights.
“If it’s too good to be true, avoid it,” Rickard said. “My personal rule is to use sites you understand and trust. If you are going anywhere else, don’t spend more than you can afford.
“Look at the payment mechanism. If they ask for payment in a cyber currency, Western Union, money transfers, those sorts of things, even gift cards happens these days. That is also going to be a tip off.”
The ACCC and Choice also warned that some products being shipped in from overseas could have safety concerns, due to Australia’s “incredibly weak” product safety laws.
“Choice particularly warns against buying children’s toys, electronic accessories and cosmetics from overseas retailers,” Brown said. “If you order products from overseas, you risk having a ticking time bomb in your home.”
Brown said local sellers could not be relied on to be safe either – Australian retailers have experienced a tripling of product recalls in the past 20 years.