The consumer watchdog alleges franchisees engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct through making false or misleading representations to consumers about their rights under the consumer guarantee provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The ACCC alleges franchisees weren't obliged to provide remedies for damaged goods unless notified within a specific timeline such as 24 hours or 14 days; it had no obligation to provide remedies for goods still covered by the manufacturer's warranties or provide refunds or replacements for particular items such as large appliances or items priced below a certain amount. Consumers also had to pay a fee for the repair and return of faulty products.
"The Australian Consumer Law provides consumers with rights to certain remedies from retailers and manufacturers when goods fail to comply with the consumer guarantee provisions, including that goods are of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold," ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said in a statement.
"These rights cannot be excluded, restricted or modified."
The franchisees involved include Harvey Norman in Albany, Western Australia; Bundall, Queensland; Campbelltown, NSW; Gordon, NSW; Hoppers Crossing, Victoria; Ispwich, Queensland; Launceston, Tasmania; Mandurah, Western Australia; Moonah, Tasmania; Oxley, Queensland and Sale, Victoria.
The matter is set down for a directions hearing in the Federal Court on December 19.
A number of investigations are also underway into other large manufacturers and retailers for alleged misrepresentations of consumer guarantee rights in breach of the ACL.
In October, ACCC issued proceedings against HP in the Federal Court in Sydney for alleged contraventions of the ACL.
Earlier this year the watchdog embarked on a national consumer guarantees awareness raising campaign, 'If it's not right, use your rights. Repair, replace, refund.'