Commissioner's Blog: Upselling could land plumbers in hot water

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Update (26 March 2018): In response to enquiries from plumbers, a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page has been published. 

With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard

Plumbers could find themselves in hot water if they go to a home to carry out one job but end up taking payment for more than they were called out for.

A 10 business day cooling-off period applies to any approach from sellers of services or goods (even if they are there to provide a quote) – it’s called an unsolicited sale in the Australian Consumer Law.

So, if a plumber is called out to fix a leaky tap but then quotes for a whole new hot water system, a cooling-off period applies.

If the purpose of a tradesperson’s visit is ONLY to quote, a cooling-off period must be applied to any resulting transaction.

During the 10 business day cooling-off period:

  • no money can change hands;
  • no work can be carried out; and
  • the consumer can cancel the contract without penalty.

The cooling-off period provided by the Australian Consumer Law protects consumers from high pressure sales tactics designed to get consumers to agree to extra work that might not even be required.

We want to pour cold water on this sort of trader behaviour. If you’ve recently experienced a scenario like this, then get in touch with us at Consumer Protection WA by calling 1300 30 40 54 or emailing consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au as soon as possible.

Our investigators have the option of issuing a business with an infringement notice 21 days from the date an unlawful unsolicited consumer agreement was entered into. If an unsolicited consumer agreement breaches legal requirements, for example when a customer isn’t provided with information about their cancellation rights, the cooling-off period extends from 10 business days to six months from the date the agreement was made.

Consumer Protection tips:

  • Get more than one quote for work around the home.
  • If possible use a tradesperson because they’ve done a good job for someone you know.
  • When a tradesperson is not personally recommended, ask for references, inspect previous work and carry out an internet search to see if there are positive or negative reviews.
  • Check the credentials of the business before signing any contracts or handing over any money (you can carry out an ABN search online for example).
  • For licensed trades, such as a plumber, carry out a licence search at www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au.
  • Be wary of upselling – agreeing to extra work when a tradie is at your home can be much more costly than shopping around.

More information can be found on the Consumer Protection website at www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/cp-cooloffandcancel (for consumers) or www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/cp-coolingoff  (for business) and we recommend watching a video about unsolicited sales titled Death of a Sales Tactic from ABC’s The Checkout on YouTube.

 

Consumer Protection
Media release
07 Mar 2018

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