Wanneroo tree lopper fined for bullying tactics (Sean Weinthal / Manageable Tree Services)

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A tree lopper has pleaded guilty to unduly harassing a couple who refused to pay his bill and has been ordered by the Perth Magistrates Court to pay $7,000 in a fine and costs.

Sean Robert Weinthal of Wanneroo, an employee of a business formerly trading as Manageable Tree Services, was given a $4,000 fine on 27 October 2016 for undue harassment in connection with a payment for services, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

In June 2012, staff from Manageable Tree Services carried out work on a Dalkeith couple’s property and rendered an invoice for $3,135 which was more than the original quote. Not satisfied with the standard of the work, the couple refused to pay until rectification work had been carried out and an invoice reflecting the agreed amount was re-issued.

A new invoice was issued but the rectification work had not been completed so the couple continued to refuse to pay. In the months following, the couple received angry phone calls and numerous reminder notices from Mr Weinthal demanding payment.

Mr Weinthal’s conduct escalated in February 2013 when he phoned the couple five times within a 15 minute period one evening, but did not speak when his calls were answered. The couple were verbally abused by Mr Weinthal when they called him to ask that the harassment stop. The conduct occurred shortly after Mr Weinthal was fined $750 by the Perth Magistrates Court in February 2013 for the coercion of another consumer in relation to an unpaid invoice.

From 5.18am next morning, the Dalkeith couple received six calls from Mr Weinthal within a six hour period but he did not speak when the calls were answered. Two calls were made at 8.10am and 8.14am the following morning in the same manner.

The next day at about 7am, Mr Weinthal called to say he was waiting outside their home. When the couple met with him outside, they asked him to leave or they would call the police. Mr Weinthal responded with threats and said “he would make their lives a misery for the next five years” before leaving.

In handing down the penalty, Magistrate Longden said Mr Weinthal’s conduct was serious and he was not entitled to act the way he did to follow up payment of an invoice.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said the appalling conduct by Mr Weinthal came only eight days after he had already been convicted for a similar offence.

“To get a fine for coercion and then continue with the same bullying tactics towards other consumers only a few days later demonstrated Mr Weinthal’s total disregard for the law,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Mr Weinthal’s behaviour was completely unacceptable and had created an immense amount of stress for these consumers.

“Mr Weinthal and his many tree lopping businesses have been the subject of Consumer Protection warnings and prosecutions since 2006. We hope that the result of this court case puts an end to any further issues with this trader.”

Mr Weinthal originally pleaded not guilty in this matter and was acquitted by the Perth Magistrates Court in January 2015. Consumer Protection successfully appealed that decision and a re-trial before a different Magistrate was ordered by the Supreme Court.

The previous court case involving Mr Weinthal in February 2013: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/announcements/fine-bullying-tree-loppers

A warning about Mr Weinthal was issued in November 2013: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/announcements/bullying-tree-lopper-threatens-wa-consumers-urgent-warning-sean-robert-weinthal

More information and advice on dealing with tradespeople is available on the Consumer Protection website, or consumers can email consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au or call 1300 30 40 54.

END OF RELEASE

Media contact (Consumer Protection) 

Consumer Protection
Media release
31 Oct 2016

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