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A student's guide to consumer rights 

Never sign anything that you haven't read or understood - especially if it has blank spaces. There's rarely a cooling-off period and if you do cancel, you may be up for a hefty cancellation fee.

Mobile phones
Wheels
Renting
Shopping and refunds
Internet shopping
Credit
If things go wrong

Mobile phones 

Before you buy:

  • think about why you need one and how you will use it so you can choose a handset and a call plan that best suits you
  • shop around (compare prices and services offered by the network providers)
  • select your plan carefully - penalties usually apply for changing plans before the contract term expires
  • check full conditions of capped plans (you may find that you are charged a higher rate if you exceed the cap)
  • always read the terms and conditions of the contract before you sign it
  • consider using pre-paid mobiles or cards
  • contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman at www.tio.com.au if you have a dispute with your network provider
  • beware of scams and hidden costs when downloading ringtones
  • if you don’t pay your phone bill, you may get a bad credit rating
  • Be aware of information about mobile operating systems and how to avoid using your mobile data allowance when you update, by visiting the ACMA website.

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Wheels 

To avoid hassles:

  • shop around for finance as you don’t have to use the dealer’s finance
  • get an independent mechanical inspection
  • get independent advice if you have any doubts about the contract – if you sign a contract where the dealer is providing the credit, you can cancel the contract within 1 day, but you will be charged a fee
  • make sure you budget for registration, petrol, maintenance and insurance.

When buying privately, contact the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) first. PPSR will check if the vehicle is carrying a debt. A PPSR certificate will give you conditional legal protection against repossession due to a previous owner’s unpaid debt.

For more information, visit www.ppsr.gov.au

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Renting 

Thinking of renting a property by yourself or with friends?

Moving in 

The landlord or agent must give you a copy of the lease called a Residential Tenancy Agreement (fillable and saveable PDF size: 107kb). This is a legally binding contract.

You must also be given a Condition Report (fillable and saveable PDF size: 2.8Mb) which is a checklist of the condition of each room in the property. You should complete the tenants part of the report, noting anything that is missing or broken. Be specific, as it could mean the difference between getting your bond back or not. Return it within 7 days.

The landlord or agent must give you a copy of the New Tenant Checklist. It provides important information and useful tips on avoiding tenancy problems.

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Living there 

Pay the rent on time and keep all your rent receipts or bank statements if you pay online.

Look after the place and let the landlord or agent know if anything needs fixing. Check with the landlord before changing locks.

Don’t disturb the neighbours. Get the landlord’s written permission before someone else moves in or before you make any change to the property.

Note: If your place is part of a strata or community scheme there are extra rules to follow called by-laws.

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Your rights 

When you are a tenant you have a range of rights under the law covering, for example, repairs, privacy, rent increases and moving out. You can find more information in your Tenancy Agreement or from the Renting a home section of this website.

Renting Services 

For all Rental Bond and general tenancy enquiries Tel: 13 32 20

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Shopping and refunds 

As a shopper you have certain rights. The information you get about a product or service must be accurate and the product must be labelled correctly. You are entitled to a receipt upon request.

The law gives you consumer guarantees in case things go wrong. The retailer should provide a refund, exchange or repair when the product you bought:

  • is unsafe or faulty
  • doesn’t do the job it’s supposed to do
  • is different to the sample or description you saw.

If the problem is serious, you can choose to return the product and get a refund.

If you simply change your mind, you may only be able to get a refund if the store has a ‘no hassle’ refund policy.

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Internet shopping 

Shopping in cyberspace certainly has its risks. However there are ways you can minimise hassles.

To avoid hassles:

  • be wary of offers that sound too good to be true
  • know who you are dealing with and check the seller really exists by calling them, if dealing with them for the first time
  • compare prices, postage, refund, warranty and return policies
  • never give your password or personal bank details
  • check the site is secure before paying. Look for a key or closed padlock icon at the bottom of the computer screen
  • print out the payment or order confirmation and keep it in a safe place
  • check ScamWatch www.scamwatch.gov.au and the National Fraud Information Centre (USA) www.fraud.org for the latest scams to avoid.

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Credit 

Before you borrow money or sign up for a credit card you should work out how much you can really afford to repay, allowing for your regular expenses. It is tempting to accept a higher limit on your credit card but don’t agree to it unless you know you can afford it.

Visit www.moneysmart.gov.au for information and tools on managing money.

To manage your credit card:

  • try to pay off the entire bill each month
  • if you can’t, pay as much as you can on top of the minimum payment to get your debt down faster
  • take advantage of fee-free or interest free periods
  • avoid cash advances
  • use a debit card instead.

Contact the Credit and Debt Hotline on 1800 007 007 for free, confidential financial advice on credit or debt or visit www.cclcnsw.org.au

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If things go wrong 

If you have a problem with something you have bought you should first try to sort it out with the seller. Take the receipt with you as well as any other bits of paper that relate to the sale (eg. a warranty or quote). Write down the names of the people you speak to and what was said. If you can’t come to an agreement with the seller contact NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or lodge a complaint online.

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