Solar business to pay $46,000 after ‘stealing’ customers’ money (Christopher John Darker / Solar Technology)
A WA solar business has been fined a total of $16,000 by the Perth Magistrates Court and ordered to pay compensation to consumers amounting to $29,355 after accepting money but failing to supply the goods.
Christopher John Darker of Shenton Park, trading as Solar Technology (registered in Yallingup), was also ordered to pay costs of $608.65 when convicted on 7 September 2018 of wrongly accepting payment and failing to supply components of solar photovoltaic and battery storage systems, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
In October 2016, Mr Darker accepted payment of $19,497 from a Kalgoorlie consumer to install a system that comprised battery cells, panels, an inverter and a regulator by the end of February 2017. The consumer only received a partial supply of the battery cells and panels in May 2017, but nothing else since. No refund was offered.
For this offence, Mr Darker was fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $4,550 in compensation for the non-supplied components.
In March 2017, Mr Darker accepted payment of $9,670 from a South Australian consumer but failed to supply any of the components. For this offence, Mr Darker was fined $5,000, but no compensation was ordered as the consumer from Banksia Park in Adelaide had already received a civil judgement for compensation in a South Australian Court.
In May 2017, Mr Darker accepted a payment of $24,805 from a consumer in Karridale (near Augusta), but did not supply any components of the systems ordered. For this offence, Mr Darker was fined $8,000 and compensation for the full amount was ordered.
Magistrate Bayly said the offences were “tantamount to stealing” and it was “outrageous” behaviour to accept money from a customer and not provide the goods, especially in the cases where the victim got “squat, diddly, nothing”.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said it is a highly risky practice for consumers to pay the full amount upfront for goods or services, as they did in these three cases.
“Paying the total amount means consumers are putting their money at risk if the goods or services are not provided and are also giving away their bargaining power should there be any subsequent problems with the goods or the work being carried out,” Mr Hillyard said.
“The consumers did, however, have a clear commitment from the trader to supply the goods within 120 days so they set up a definite timeline for delivery, even though the trader did not stick to it.
“That is what we recommend, get a clear timeframe for delivery of goods or completion of the work from the trader, but don’t pay large deposits and never pay the full amount until everything has been supplied or work completed to your satisfaction.”
Consumers who have paid money for goods or services that haven’t been supplied are invited to lodge a complaint on the Consumer Protection website www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au. Enquiries can be made by email email@example.com or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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