Horse float business ordered to pay $135,395 (Robert William O'Neil / Izz-Wil-Cal Floats)
A Bullsbrook horse float business has been fined a total of $60,000 by the Midland Magistrates Court and ordered to pay compensation to consumers of $73,264 after accepting payments but failing to supply, as well as operating without a licence.
Robert William O’Neil, trading as Izz-Wil-Cal Floats, was also ordered to pay costs of $2,131 after pleading guilty on 18 January 2016 to seven charges under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and one charge of operating a repair business without a licence as required by the Motor Vehicle Repairers Act.
Between October 2012 and January 2014, Mr O’Neil had received substantial deposits from seven customers to undertake either the construction of custom designed horse floats or the repair of existing horse floats, but failed to supply the goods or carry out the repairs within a reasonable time as required by the ACL.
The compensation order will refund those consumers who have made payments but still have orders or repairs outstanding.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said paying large amounts of money upfront, as this situation has highlighted, puts consumers at great risk.
“In one case, a consumer paid the full amount of $45,000 up front to have a float built but, almost three years later, has yet to receive it,” Mr Hillyard said.
“We strongly recommend that consumers only pay a small deposit, about ten per cent in most circumstances, and only make progress payments at various stages after confirmation that materials have been ordered and the work is being carried out in a timely manner or as agreed. Generally, consumers should not pay the balance though until goods have been delivered or services carried out to their complete satisfaction.
“To pay large deposits or the full amount up front gives all the power to the trader and diminishes the consumer’s ability to negotiate if they are not satisfied with the quality of the goods or standard of the workmanship or if the trader is taking too long to complete the job.
“If a trader is demanding a large deposit before delivery, we recommend consumers walk away and consider engaging the services of another supplier rather than put their money at risk.
“Consumers should confirm the agreed completion date by having it clearly stated in writing; perhaps include it in the quote, so there is some basis to a complaint that delivery is taking longer than expected.
“This case is also a reminder to those involved in the repair of motor vehicles – and that includes horse floats, caravans and most types of trailers used on our roads – need to be licensed and there are serious penalties that apply to those who operate without a licence.”
Information on consumers’ rights under the ACL is available at www.consumerlaw.gov.au. Checks on whether a motor vehicle repairer is licensed can be made by doing a search on the Consumer Protection website: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/cp/licencesearch. General enquiries can be made by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 30 40 54.
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