$12,000 penalty for not-so-handy conman (Daniel Murray Howard)
A handyman who took money from consumers but failed to carry out the work has been fined $6,000, ordered to pay a customer $2,150 in compensation and must also pay the $3,800 it cost Consumer Protection to prosecute him.
Daniel Murray Howard, who has previously been convicted of dishonesty offences, pleaded guilty to three contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law during a hearing at the Perth Magistrates Court on 17 February 2017. The incidents in May 2014 came within five months of his release from prison:
- Daniel Howard responded to an internet advertisement for a kitchen renovator and attended a home in Parkwood, providing a quote of $4,700 and promising to complete the job by the end of the month. Over the next few weeks he took four separate cash payments adding up to $2,150. He then said he would not be able to complete the job but failed to repay the money despite promising to several times.
- Daniel Howard visited a Greenmount property to quote for repairs to a flood damaged kitchen. He also quoted for a new door and window and took $460 cash but didn’t supply them. He later quoted $10,125 for various home renovations and further to that quoted $840 for other work. By June 2014 he had taken deposits of $1,560 and $3,050 but never carried out the jobs.
Magistrate Hall stated that when people invite tradesmen into their home they place their trust in a stranger, making them vulnerable. His Honour added that when payments are made to tradesmen in good faith, consumers are entitled to rely on the work to be completed. His Honour concluded that most people cannot afford to be ripped off and imposed the fine and costs totalling $11,950.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard hopes the penalty is a clear deterrent.
"We have seen an increase in these sorts of offences where tradespeople take money and do not carry out the work at all or fail to complete it. This is clearly illegal and as the enforcer of the Australian Consumer Law in Western Australia Consumer Protection is here to take complaints about this type of behaviour and if necessary step into the shoes of affected parties to bring matters before the courts."
Consumer Protection’s 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. Avoid random selections, which rely on gut instinct and blind trust.
- If possible, sight previous work and speak to past clients. Search for positive or negative information online, including at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/cp
- 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.commerce.wa.gov.au
- Ask for the cost of the job and timeframe for completion in writing.
- 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 or a business collapses.
- Obtain a record of any payment made in the form of a detailed receipt or invoice.
For assistance from Consumer Protection, call 1300 30 40 54 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Depending on the nature of your enquiry you may be referred to the Building Commission.
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