Harvey Norman stores face court action

TWO Tasmanian stores are among 11 Harvey Norman franchisees facing court action from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Launceston and Moonah superstore franchisees _ as well as others in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia _ will front the Federal Court on allegations that they misled consumers on their rights.

The Age reported that franchisees could be hit with fines of up to $1.1 million.

The ACCC announced yesterday that it had started the proceedings.

It alleges the franchisees ``engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct'' by making false or misleading statements to consumers between April 2011 and mid-2012 about their rights in relation to refunds and replacements. 

The allegations include that customers were told the franchisee was under no obligation to provide remedies for damaged goods, or goods still covered by the manufacturer's warranty. 

The ACCC alleges some franchisees also told customers they were not obliged to refund or replace particular items, including large or expensive goods. 

Some consumers were also allegedly told they would have to pay a fee for the repair and return of faulty products. 

The ACCC is seeking orders against the franchisees, including penalties, injunctions and costs. 

``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,'' ACCC chairman Rod Sims said. Those provisions include that goods be of acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were sold. 

The matter has been set down for a directions hearing on December 19. 

Harvey Norman Launceston superstore franchisee Bruce McNamara declined to comment.