Fencing contractor declares bankruptcy (United Fencing / James Battah)

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Consumer Protection will discontinue legal action against a rogue fencing contractor due to him having been declared bankrupt.

United Fencing (WA) Pty Ltd, a registered company of sole director James Lee Battah of Harvey, has been the subject of legal action by the Department after consumers in the Bunbury and Mandurah areas reported paying large deposits for fencing work that was never carried out.

In March 2013 Consumer Protection negotiated with the company and Mr Battah to sign a Court enforceable undertaking under the Australian Consumer Law which placed strict conditions on the company’s present and future dealings with customers. The undertaking also required the company to refund $43,000 in deposits owed to 24 consumers within a specified period.

Consumer Protection commenced legal action against the company and Mr Battah when these amounts were not paid by the due date. On 27 May 2013 Mr Battah was declared bankrupt and, as a result, further legal action will be discontinued as there is unlikely to be any positive outcome.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said neither Mr Battah nor his company appear to have assets that would enable consumers to get their money back.

“While individual consumers have the right to continue with their own legal action, and many already have, the bankruptcy means that there is no public interest in the Department continuing with its legal action,” Ms Driscoll said.

“Mr Battah’s company is likely to be deregistered and we believe he is now no longer trading as a fencing contractor. The conditions of his bankruptcy will preclude him from holding a role as Director in any other company for a three-year period or until his creditors have been repaid.

“Consumer Protection will be monitoring Mr Battah to ensure that, if he is ever the subject of future complaints, immediate action will be taken.

“This case highlights the risks that consumers face when they pay large deposits before any work is carried out and we urge consumers not to pay large deposits, to shop around and to do their homework before paying upfront for goods and services.”

Consumer Protection recommends that, when engaging the services of tradespeople, consumers should:

  • Obtain at least two written quotes for the work;
  • Pay only a small deposit and ask for receipts for any money paid;
  • Building contracts for amounts over $7500 are covered by the Home Building Contracts Act and deposits must not exceed 6.5% of the contract price;
  • Explore the option of progress payments. For example, a small deposit, part payment on delivery of materials, at milestone points in the construction process and the balance when the job is completed to a satisfactory standard and within the agreed time-frame;
  • Consider the benefits of using a credit card to pay a deposit, as you may be able to seek a charge reversal if there is an extensive delay in the work being carried out or if the business closes down;
  • Check the reputation and qualifications of the business operators – ask for references, inspect previous work carried out and perhaps do an internet search to see if positive or negative comments arise;
  • Ensure there is a clear understanding about what work needs to be carried out; and
  • Set a deadline or outline a timeframe in writing for when the work must be completed.

For more information and advice, consumers can contact Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or by email: consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au .

END OF RELEASE

(Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce)

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Media Contact:
Alan Hynd 9282 0961 or 0429-078791 alan.hynd@commerce.wa.gov.au

Consumer Protection
Media release
12 Sep 2013

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