Understanding digital goods warranties in Australia
As digital commerce and services gain popularity, the relevance of warranties for digital goods has grown significantly. As consumers in Australia engage in online transactions for a wide range of digital products and services, understanding the warranty and the role of regulatory bodies such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is crucial.
The issue with online "professionals"
In 2024, establishing an online presence has become indispensable for businesses. However, the high demand has led to challenges for many businesses in finding the right professionals—be it an individual, freelancer or agency—to guide them toward success.
The problem often arises due to the limited experience and knowledge of both the business owner and the IT professional. While the years from 2020 to 2023 have seen great success in the online world, the increasing number of successful ventures has also attracted a growing number of scammers and unqualified individuals who are only interested in quick gains.
How does this affect you as a business?
One of the common pitfalls for business owners is falling into the trap of automated spam. This involves the use of collected emailing lists to target a large number of businesses with spam mail or “cold emails,” designed to lure businesses into engaging with a particular product or service. Upon engagement, businesses often find themselves faced with a series of “over-promised and under-delivered” expectations.
While some businesses may genuinely require a website rebuild, especially those with evident shortcomings, not all businesses fall into this category. For many, particularly those with established leads and sales volumes, a website reconstruction may not be necessary. It is advisable to consult with experienced professionals or seek input from other businesses that have engaged with the professional to ensure that the services promised and received are indeed optimal.
With our customers, when performing SEO optimisation or marketing, we do not always suggest a redesign, although profitable, it is not ethical.
Another common engagement includes “your SEO isn’t ranking well”. While most business owners do not realise a realistic SEO campaign takes up to 6 months, while a new campaign is executed every month, the results will not show until 6 months after that campaign is launched. For example, if a campaign is launched in January the results from the SEO efforts are not seen in full effect until July. If a second campaign is launched in February, the effect of that campaign will not be in full effect until August. With this knowledge, many businesses fall into the trap of “Why isn’t my SEO working?” or “Why am I not getting any leads” in turn leading them to explore options. The resultant effect can be detrimental.
Building SEO isn’t a simple task, while your SEO is being worked on, other businesses within the same market will also be driving their SEO efforts to ensure they remain relevant, this makes SEO a competition between businesses for rank #1. The promise of #1 is impossible, it is a non-realistic “over-promise”. It is also good to note, that if there is an influx of instant results, this does not always translate to effective SEO. Instant results are commonly attributed to black-hat SEO which provides instant results with a long-term ban or complete reversal of SEO ranking and removal.
Who can I trust online?
To evaluate a professional’s competence, engaging in conversation, scrutinising their qualification, and assessing their partnerships are essential steps. If a qualification has been acquired recently, it prompts consideration regarding the depth of their practical experience. Another crucial aspect is delving into their work history, as it provides valuable insights into the calibre of their services.
It is noteworthy that the landscape of professionals has evolved amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to career shifts and constraints in business activities. Many individuals now identify as “professionals,” particularly in fields such as marketing and IT. However, these domains necessitate a profound passion and continuous adaptation to the ever-changing coding languages and technologies. Achieving mastery in these areas typically requires decades of dedication.
Talk to your immediate business circle, see who they engage with and ensure you read and understand their role as your professional.
How trustworthy are review platforms?
Review platforms such as Google Reviews, Trustpilot and Social Media as well as Freelance or Airtasker have become increasingly open to manipulation and more so apparent with digital businesses. Directly engaging or contacting businesses working with the professional provides the best response. Review platforms over the years has seen an increasingly large number of operators operating to solely “Buy and Sell Google Reviews” or “Buy and Sell Facebook Reviews”. While many of these do not work and incur losses for businesses as platforms attempt to combat fake reviews online. It simply cannot be stopped.
While gathering as much knowledge as you can on your professional is important, it also valuable to do your own research as a business owner, to understand the service and expected delivery.
How does this affect my business?
Digital goods and services everywhere around the world are considered a product that contains no warranty or guarantee. You are not covered for any defects, repairs, refunds or exchanges. This means you as a business owner, should evaluate the agreement between yourself and the agency.
At Rubix Studios we provide customers with a free 6-month warranty for maintenance, updates and repairs.
It’s crucial to highlight that engaging any developer or non-approved digital agency will render all provided warranties null and void. This consideration is paramount due to the intangible nature of digital products, which can be easily replaced. Any direct involvement of unauthorised digital agencies may lead to complications in the underlying website structure, akin to the issues that can arise in a motor vehicle when serviced by non-approved mechanics.
Many large agencies will provide a maintenance cost-free period, made to debug and ensure the integrity of your business platform.
Digital Goods & Services Warranties
Digital goods and services, encompassing everything from google ads management, social media management, website development, software and games to e-books and streaming services, pose unique challenges when it comes to warranties. Unlike tangible products, digital goods and services are intangible and easily replicable, leading to a different set of considerations when it comes to consumer protection.
In Australia, the ACCC plays a pivotal role in safeguarding consumer rights. The Australian Consumer Law (ACL), administered by the ACCC, outlines consumer guarantees that apply to goods and services, both physical and digital.
While digital goods may not come with a conventional warranty akin to physical products, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) offers guarantees related to acceptable quality, fitness for purpose and other crucial attributes of goods and services. This implies that consumers possess certain rights, regardless of the policies set by the seller. Despite the broad nature of these guidelines, the protection provided is not exhaustive. Therefore, businesses must engage in reflection, review and a comprehensive understanding of the products they offer.
Unlike traditional products, a digital product can be developed in various ways, which impacts the resulting outcome and lifespan of the product.
Consumer Redress and ACCC's Role
Should a consumer encounter problem with a digital product, the ACCC provides avenues for redress. The ACL grants consumers the right to seek remedies, including repairs, replacements or refunds, for goods or services that do not meet the consumer guarantees.
Consumers facing issues with digital goods are encouraged to reach out to the ACCC or their state or territory consumer protection agency for guidance. These regulatory bodies can assist and intervene if there are potential breaches of consumer rights.
It is important to note, that all warranties are generally voided if modification or charges are created by both the business owner or external operator, therefore it is essential to ensure the professional engaged is approved or covered by the terms of service and warranty as the digital landscape is riddled with inexperienced individuals and bad actors.
Local Regulations and Jurisdiction
It’s important to note that consumer protection laws and regulations can vary across jurisdictions within Australia. Familiarising oneself with local laws is advisable, as it ensures a better understanding of one’s rights and the available avenues for resolution.
As Australians continue to embrace digital transactions, understanding the warranty landscape for digital goods and services becomes crucial. The ACCC, with its commitment to upholding consumer rights, serves as a vital resource for individuals seeking redress for issues related to digital products. By staying informed about local regulations and the guarantees provided by the ACCC, consumers can navigate the digital landscape with confidence.
Rubix Studios has a long history in the digital experience industry, dating back to 2001. The management team’s extensive technology experience includes the use of HTML, Java, PHPNuke, Invision Board, vBulletin, Drupal, Joomla, Moodle and various PHP and MySQL systems. Rubix Studios involves members of the original Bored Aussies, a private Australian Warcraft III server for Australians. The CEO of Rubix Studios was the sole creator of Acardia and Mystic Shrine, an online portal and web forum that integrates the server with relevant internet technologies.