Tradesman fined and consumers get compensation (Rodney Gulley / North Shore Limestone)
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A tradesman has been fined a total of $3,000 by the Perth Magistrates Court and was ordered to repay a total of $4,400 to two consumers after he accepted deposits but failed to carry out the work.
Rodney John Howard Gulley, trading as North Shore Limestone of Carramar, was fined $1,500 on each of the two charges of breaching the Australian Consumer Law and was also ordered to pay Court costs of $1,797 on 28 November 2014.
Lawyers for Consumer Protection told the Court that Mr Gulley had received a $1,400 deposit from a consumer in Karrinyup in January 2013 to construct a limestone wall at a quoted cost of $2,800, but the work was never carried out.
At about the same time, Mr Gulley had accepted a deposit of $3,000 from a Kallaroo couple to construct a limestone wall at a quoted cost of $6,300 which included getting the plans approved by the local council. The plans were never submitted and the work was never carried out.
In handing down the penalty, Magistrate Temby described Mr Gulley’s conduct as disappointing and said it affected the ability of consumers to trust other tradespeople.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said that in both these cases there was no clear construction completion date negotiated.
“This Court case highlights the need for consumers and tradespeople to have a clear understanding of when the work will be completed, and to get that agreed date in writing, even if it’s just noted on the quote,” Ms Driscoll said.
“However, even if there is no agreed completion date, tradespeople cannot put off work indefinitely. The Australian Consumer Law states that the work must be carried out within a reasonable amount of time.
“Consumers expect that the work will be carried out in a matter of weeks, not months, but it is always wise to get an agreed date in writing so there is no misunderstanding. This draws a line in the sand and provides an indisputable basis for cancelling the contract and getting deposits returned if the work is not carried out by the agreed date.
“Consumers are also at risk if they pay too much up front. We consider a 50 per cent deposit to be excessive and consumers should negotiate a much smaller deposit be paid or even question whether a deposit needs to be paid at all.
“Under no circumstances should the full amount be paid up front. This leaves the consumer with no bargaining power if there is a dispute about the work at a later stage.”
More information on dealing with tradespeople can be found on the Consumer Protection website: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumerprotection. Enquiries can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
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