Patio tradesman who failed to do the work ordered to pay almost $28,000 (Exclusive Patios / Nicholas Gudden)

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A Wangara patio tradesman who took payments from consumers but failed to do the work has been ordered to pay a total of $27,975 in fines, compensation and costs by the Perth Magistrates Court.

Nicholas Charles Gudden, trading as Exclusive Patios, pleaded guilty to three charges of contravening the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by wrongly accepting payment and failing to provide goods and services within a reasonable time. On 18 August 2017 he was fined $15,000 and ordered to repay $8,630 and $650 to two consumers and pay court costs of $3,695. A third consumer had taken separate civil action against Mr Gudden and a court order had been issued for the repayment of $1,000.

In February 2016, a Wanneroo couple had agreed to pay $10,200 for the supply and installation of a patio at their home and made two payments totalling $1,550 as an agreed deposit. Then on four separate occasions, Mr Gudden asked for more money upfront to buy materials and a further $7,080 was paid. No work has been commenced or any materials supplied, with Mr Gudden claiming a hand injury prevented him from working.

In the same month, a couple in Yokine entered into a contract with Mr Gudden to supply and install a patio within five weeks for $6,500, paying a deposit of $650. No work has been carried out or materials supplied.

In October 2015, an Ellenbrook consumer made two payments totalling $1,000 as a deposit with no patio building work being commenced nor any materials provided.

Magistrate Smith said the offences were a serious matter that put consumers in a stressful and inconvenient situation. The Magistrate did not accept all the excuses that Mr Gudden made to justify his conduct and said that Mr Gudden should not have accepted money for patios he was never going to provide.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard urged consumers to limit the deposits they pay to tradespeople.

“There is great risk of losing any money paid upfront for jobs if the tradesperson fails to begin or complete the work often with a range of excuses provided by the business proprietor that the consumer has no way of knowing about or combating,” Mr Hillyard said.

“There are some unscrupulous traders who illegally take money from consumers with absolutely no intention of either starting or completing the work, so consumers need to be wary and do their homework before paying any money. Only deal with reputable businesses that have a good track record and can demonstrate a history of happy customers.

“If they want you to pay for materials, pay the supplier and have the goods delivered to you direct, otherwise pay no more than a small deposit and progress payments as work and materials are supplied.

“Set timeframes for the work to be completed and get it in writing with the quote. Don’t pay any extra money unless stages of the work have been completed or materials have been supplied.”

Other Consumer Protection tips for homeowners hiring a tradesperson:

  • Get as many quotes as you can, to compare price and value, from tradespeople sourced through personal recommendations or chosen for industry association recognition
  • If possible, sight previous work and speak to past clients. Search for positive or negative information online, including at  www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection
  • Check the business is registered at www.asic.gov.au and, if it’s a licensed profession such as an electrician, carry out a licence search at www.dmirs.wa.gov.au
  • Avoid paying deposits and certainly pay no more than 10% of the total before work has started or materials have been supplied. (In WA for home building contracts above $7,500 it is illegal for more than 6.5% deposit to be taken)
  • Ask if they will take credit card payment to give you the possibility of getting a chargeback (transaction reversal) if work is not carried out
  • Ask for the total cost of the job and agreed timeframe in writing
  • Obtain a record of any payments made in the form of a detailed receipt or invoice
  • For assistance from Consumer Protection, email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or call 1300 30 40 54

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Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 alan.hynd@dmirs.wa.gov.au  

Consumer Protection
Media release
22 Aug 2017

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