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Online retailer ordered to pay penalty and compensation.

Peter Lee

Big Warehouse Spare Parts is an amazing, if sometimes expensive, service for the supply of parts for all kinds of things, including hard to find items. But its business practices have landed it in hot water with Australia's Consumer and Competition Commission.

Big Warehouse Spares has paid a penalty of AUD12,600 following the issue of an infringement notice. In the way of these things, the company "allegedly" breached the Australian Consumer Law. The company has also provided a "court-enforceable undertaking" in which it "admits that it was likely to have contravened" the law.

So, that's an Aussie version of the weasel's charter popularised in the USA in which government agencies tell companies that, if they stump up money and don't admit or deny liability, they can waltz into the sunset. That makes it harder for aggrieved persons to sue you using the agreement as evidence because it has dubious value in those other proceedings. In fact, ACCC makes it clear that "The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law."

What does Big Warehouse say it is "likely" to have done?

"representing to consumers that:

* spare parts were available for dispatch, when in fact they needed to be ordered from the manufacturer;
* spare parts were compatible with the model of electrical appliance purchased by the consumer, when this was not the case;
* the consumer was not entitled to a full refund or replacement where:
* a spare part ordered was not supplied within a reasonable time after payment was made;
* a spare part was not compatible with the electrical appliance set out in the consumer’s order; or
* a spare part was damaged during delivery and the consumer had not purchased insurance from Big Warehouse. "

ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said, in a statement, "Big Warehouse has admitted that when consumers requested a full refund or replacement, they were either denied one, only given a partial refund, or offered a store credit instead”

“According to some complaints, consumers were incorrectly charged for a replacement part in circumstances where they shouldn’t have been. Such charges included a 30 per cent restocking fee to purchase the correct part.”

“If a consumer buys a spare part and is provided the incorrect part or it is damaged on arrival, they are entitled under the Australian Consumer Law to choose a full refund or replacement."

In this image taken today from the website, the item is expressed to be "in stock at supplier" but it takes an extra click on "what does this mean" to call up a notice saying that "This means the part is readily available from the manufacturer. " A website banner says "We guarantee in-stock orders will be dispatched same day. " So, that's clear. Not.

The website says that the company has had more than 77,000 reviews. Then it says there are more than 30,000 "positive" reviews.

How expensive can Big Warehouse prove to be?

A stainless steel mixing bowl for a vintage Kenwood Chef for which they charge AUD224.40 (GBP126.747 according to XE.com today) costs GBP34.99 from Kenwood Chef Restore in the UK.

Further reading:

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