Fine and compensation order for home handyman (Michael David Wells)

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A home handyman has been fined a total of $4,000 by the Perth Magistrates Court and ordered to pay $1,100 compensation to two consumers after taking deposits but failing to carry out the work.

Michael David Wells of St James had advertised his home repair service on community noticeboards at local supermarkets in Carlisle and Brentwood, where two consumers obtained his contact details.

In March 2013, a 78 year old woman contacted Mr Wells through her son and she received a quote of $1,200 to repair the roof and a gate at a rental property that she owns in Carlisle. As requested by Mr Wells, the woman paid a $500 deposit but the work has never been carried out despite Mr Wells making promises to the woman’s son that he would do so.

In January 2014, a Brentwood woman contacted Mr Wells who provided a quote of $1,300 to repair a ceiling at the home that she shared with her partner. The woman paid a deposit of $600 but the work has not been carried out and Mr Wells failed to return telephone messages asking him to carry out that work.

Mr Wells was fined $2,000 each on two charges of accepting payment without providing goods or services, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law on 10 October 2014. He was ordered to compensate the consumers for the deposits they paid and also pay costs of $754.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said there are always risks when consumers pay large deposits for work yet to be carried out, but that does not excuse the trader from failing to do the work.

“Your rights under the Australian Consumer Law mean that work must be carried out within a reasonable amount of time, or finished by the completion date stated in the contract,” Mr Hillyard said.

“As a general rule, big deposits are a bad idea. If a deposit is necessary to secure a sale, we recommend only paying 10 per cent, maybe more if the goods you are purchasing are being custom-made or the services require expensive materials to be purchased specifically for your job.

“We also advise consumers to consider the benefits of using a credit card as, if something goes wrong such as non-supply, you have the option of seeking a chargeback from your credit card provider. When paying cash or by direct bank transfer there is no such protection.

“Paying the full amount up-front is an absolute no-no. It means you lose bargaining power in terms of getting what you paid for within an agreed time-frame. You should only pay the balance on delivery of goods or completion of work.”

Consumer Protection’s tips:

  • Never pay the full amount up front for goods or services yet to be supplied.
  • Do not to pay more than 10% deposit (building contracts for amounts over $7500 are covered by the Home Building Contracts Act and deposits must never exceed 6.5% of the contract price).
  • Explore the option of progress payments e.g. when materials have been supplied or partial work is done.
  • Only pay the balance upon delivery of goods or completion of work.
  • 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 non-supply or if the business goes under.
  • Don’t be pressured into paying a high deposit and if you feel uncomfortable about a deposit request, talk to Consumer Protection.

If you are having problems getting goods and services after paying deposits, contact Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au

END OF RELEASE

Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Consumer Protection
Media release
13 Oct 2014

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