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By Dr. Anthony Marinac, Solicitor Advocate and Director

Every single time that you as a consumer buy a product, or engage somebody to provide a service, the Australian Consumer Law (“Consumer Law”) provides you with protections. From buying a chocolate bar or a can of drink, through to buying a boat; from paying someone at a car wash, through to paying a trade specialist to undertake expensive and detailed work.

The Consumer Law provides what are called the Consumer Guarantees. The Consumer Guarantees say that:

  • products must be of acceptable quality
  • products must be fit for their usual purpose and for any other purpose that the seller knows is intended by the buyer
  • products must come with absolute ownership of the goods
  • there must be reasonable spare parts and repair facilities
  • any warranties offered by the seller must be honoured.

When it comes to services, the Consumer Law is equally helpful. Services must be:

  • provided with acceptable care and skill
  • fit for the intended purpose
  • delivered within a reasonable time.


In most cases, the Consumer Law will cover you when you purchase goods or services for private, recreational use. If you’re purchasing goods or services as part of a business enterprise, other rules apply. So, if you purchase a vessel, or equipment, or if you engage a company to perform works on your boat, the Consumer Law will usually apply.

Beware though, there is one crucial exception!

If you purchase goods or services from someone who is simply another private individual, then the Consumer Law does not apply. So, if you purchase a vessel second hand, directly from a previous owner or if you pay an individual person, in their private capacity, to do some work on your boat the Consumer Law will not protect you

To make matters even more complicated, it’s not clear whether the Consumer Law applies when you purchase a boat from a previous private owner, but instead with an agent or broker acting for you. If you’re not careful, you may be much less protected than you think!

If in doubt, call a lawyer to review the purchase or services contract. It may cost you a little bit now, but it will cost you a lot more if you end up in a full blown legal dispute!


If the Consumer Law does apply, the remedy will depend on whether the goods or services have a major failure or a minor failure.

If the failure is major, then you can reject the goods or services and demand your money back, and in addition you can demand damages for any losses you have suffered as a result of the fault.

But, if the failure is minor, then the seller of the goods will have the choice to repair the product, replace it, or refund your money and take it back. If the minor failure is relating to the provision of services, the provider of the services will have the opportunity to provide the services again. Damages are much harder to get for minor failures.


Buying a new boat, or new gear, should be exciting. Dealing with maritime professionals should give you a feeling of reliability. But things go wrong, and when they do, if you are a private consumer, the Consumer Law is there to help.

If you need a contract reviewed, or if something has gone wrong and you need to speak to lawyers who know boats, give Pacific Maritime Lawyers a call on 1300 797 627.




Published in print April-June 2022