Tradesman fined for taking deposit and not doing work (Mark Edward Straw - Marks Ceilings & Renovations)
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A High Wycombe tradesman has been fined $1,000 linked to a Community Release Order for accepting a deposit for work and failing to complete it within a reasonable time.
Mark Edward Straw, trading as Marks Ceilings & Renovations, failed to appear in the Midland Magistrates Court for his first scheduled appearance on 5 December 2013. He appeared on 21 February 2014 following his arrest on a bench warrant and was convicted. Under the Sentencing Act, Mr Straw will be liable to pay the fine if he commits another offence within the next 12 months.
Consumer Protection told the Court that Mr Straw had accepted a $2,000 deposit from a Mahogany Creek consumer in November 2012 for the gyprocking of internal walls. The total quote was for $3,600 and a tax invoice stated that the work would commence two weeks later.
When work failed to commence by the agreed date, the consumer contacted Mr Straw who, for the following month, gave a variety of excuses for not being able to commence the work, including "it was too windy" and "it’s too late to start the job before Christmas". A promise to refund the deposit was not honoured until two weeks before his scheduled court appearance.
Under the Australian Consumer Law, it is an offence to accept payment for goods or services and then fail to supply the goods or services within a reasonable time.
In June 2013, Consumer Protection issued a public warning about Mr Straw, who at the time, had eight complaints lodged against him related to the charging of deposits and upfront payments totalling more than $22,000 and failing to provide refunds.
In August 2011, Mr Straw was warned by Consumer Protection about trading under an unregistered business name and, in May 2012, was warned by the Building Commission for breaching the Home Building Contracts Act regarding a contract with a consumer.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said this case highlights the dangers associated with consumers paying too much upfront.
"We remind consumers that paying large deposits for work yet to be carried out is a risky practice. Consumers should never pay the full amount up front and pay small deposits only, if necessary," Ms Driscoll said.
"If the building work is between $7,500 and $500,000, the Home Building Contracts Act makes it is illegal for the contractor to take a deposit of more than 6.5% of the contracted price.
"Under the Australian Consumer Law, the work must be carried out within a reasonable time, so consumers should demand a refund if there are unreasonable delays. Ensure there is a clear agreement, preferably in writing, on when the work is to commence and be completed."
Consumers, who experience problems with tradespeople and are having difficulty resolving them, can contact Consumer Protection by email: email@example.com or call 1300 30 40 54.
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(Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce)
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Media Contact: Alan Hynd
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