If you have a problem with a mobile phone handset or other piece of telecommunications equipment don’t ignore it.

Under Australia’s new consumer laws, if you buy a product and it is faulty you have the right to take it back to where you bought it and ask the business to fix the problem. The same applies if you engage a service and it is not provided to an appropriate standard.

These rights are called consumer guarantees and they apply to all goods and services bought or leased new, second hand, in stores and online.

In broad terms, consumer guarantees require that all goods sold in Australia must be of acceptable quality, be fit for any purpose that you made known and match the description given.

Services must be delivered with due care and skill, and completed within a reasonable time if no set timeframe is agreed.

If the goods or services don’t meet the consumer guarantees, you have a legal right to a remedy. This may involve a repair, replacement or a refund. These rights cannot be cancelled out by any voluntary warranties (also called an express warranty) offered by the supplier.

Many communications companies offer you deals and discounts if you sign up to more than one of their services. For example, you may be offered a discount on your home phone account if you agree to use the same company for your internet or mobile connection. This is known as 'bundling'.

Bundled contracts are legal agreements. However they are not exempt from the consumer guarantees, and their terms and conditions cannot cancel out these protections.

For example, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took legal action against Optus Mobile in 2010, based on numerous complaints from Optus customers. Customers complained of receiving a faulty mobile handset under a 24-month post-paid contract. The remedies offered to them by Optus Mobile were limited to those under the mobile handset manufacturer's express warranty policy, and did comply with Australia’s fair trading law (then the Trade Practices Act 1974, now the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which includes the consumer guarantees).

Following the ACCC's investigation, Optus introduced a 24-month express repair warranty for all mobile phones supplied on 24-month post-paid contracts.

ACCC intervention has also led to Telstra and Vodafone Hutchison Australia  rolling out 24-month warranties for mobile handsets supplied with 24-month service contracts (excluding Apple products).

If you have a problem with a mobile phone handset or other piece of telecommunications equipment you purchased, you should first contact the business you bought it from. If they do not satisfactorily resolve the problem, contact your local consumer protection agency or the ACCC.

For further information about consumer guarantees and how to make a complaint visit www.australia.gov.au/consumerrights .

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) can assist consumers to resolve complaints about telephone and internet services. The TIO may be able to assist you if the phone handset or equipment was supplied as part of a contract. The TIO offers a fast, free and fair dispute resolution service for small business and residential customers in Australia.  For further information visit  www.tio.com.au.

For a list of things to consider when buying a mobile phone visit www.accc.gov.au/mobilephones

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