Commissioner's Blog: Know your rights when hiring tradespeople
With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
We recently warned consumers about a stonemason who was taking money from customers but not delivering services and we regularly receive complaints about concreters, tree loppers and other trades or service providers.
Issues can arise when consumers accept tradespeople on face value and pay large amounts of money as a deposit but the work is then not completed or done to a poor standard. Or consumers agree to pay an inflated price after falling for a high pressure sales pitch without getting other quotes.
Yet, just how do you go about finding trustworthy and reliable tradespeople?
Firstly, it’s important to know your rights. Under consumer law if a salesperson comes to your home out of the blue or for the purpose of providing a quote but enters into negotiations to supply, then you have rights under the Australian Consumer Law unsolicited consumer agreement provisions and you should get a 10 business day cooling off period to think about it and check prices. If it’s not what you expected, then you can cancel the contract.
Consumer law also requires services to be carried out with due care and skill, and in a reasonable amount of time. When entering into any trades or services agreement we recommend that you get the cost of the job and timeframe for completion of work in writing.
Also only pay a minimal deposit of about 10 per cent or, for larger jobs, negotiate progress payments as stages of the work are completed. It is illegal for tradespeople to accept deposits of more than 6.5 per cent for building work valued at more than $7,500.
Also ask if the business will take a credit card payment. If they do, this could offer a safeguard because of the possibility of getting a chargeback (transaction reversal) if the work is not carried out.
And obtain a record of any payment made and ensure the receipt or invoice includes the details of the business on it.
Key things to do before hiring someone include:
- Getting several quotes, including those from personally recommended or industry association recognised tradespeople.
- Undertaking a general internet search for positive or negative reviews is also useful, and this includes visiting our website which lists information about named traders and compliance actions.
- Verifying claims by asking to see previous work and speaking to past clients. Don’t just rely on photos or written testimonials or a website. Also ask to see any public liability insurance policy they claim to have.
- Checking that the business is registered, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has a guide to identifying a genuine business at http://www.accc.gov.au and, if it’s a licensed profession such as an electrician, builder or plumber, then carry out a licence search at www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au
For more information or assistance call Consumer Protection on 1300 304 054 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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