Beware rogue plumbing/electrical companies that mislead consumers
- Rogue elements in industry exaggerate necessity for extra work and costs
- Consumers urged to get multiple quotes to avoid paying too much
- Do research to find licensed tradies offering sound advice and a fair price
WA consumers who get quotes from companies that offer both plumbing and electrical services are being urged to get multiple quotes before signing a contract in order to avoid paying too much for what may be unnecessary work.
The advice from Consumer Protection and Building and Energy also recommends that home owners do their research to find licensed and reputable tradespeople who will offer sound technical advice and a fair price.
The research may involve doing an internet search to ensure the tradies are licensed and reading online reviews from previous clients, as well as getting recommendations from family and friends. Alternatively, ask for references or to inspect previous work.
Ideally, plan ahead and have a company or tradesperson selected before an emergency situation occurs. In the event of a plumbing emergency, know the location of the home’s meter so the water can be turned off, allowing time to get quotes from at least two operators.
Consumer Protection has received a significant number of complaints relating to an alleged lack of due care and skill, unsolicited sales breaches and higher than average prices being charged. Caution is advised while investigations into these complaints continue.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said, while the vast majority of companies and individuals operating in the industry are reputable and professional, there are some that may not be doing the right thing.
“It’s essential that consumers requiring plumbing or electrical work get multiple quotes as the costs can vary widely and this ensures they are getting sound advice and the best price,” Ms Chopping said.
“For example, one tradesperson may recommend replacing a hot water system completely at significant cost, while another might be able to repair the existing system at a much lower cost. Most consumers are not technical experts and, as a result, may be vulnerable to being misled, so getting at least two quotes for the required work is very important.
“It is suspected in some cases, work that is not entirely necessary is being carried out at significant cost to home owners, as well as the needless supply or replacement of equipment and devices.
“Even in emergency situations, don’t be pressured into signing a contract until you have got at least two quotes. There are many businesses offering these services that can attend your home at short notice.”
Consumers are entitled to a ten business day cooling off period if the sale is regarded as ‘unsolicited’. If the trader is invited only to provide a quote, or is there to fix a problem but then quotes on additional work, then the cooling off period should apply. This means that no work should be carried out or payments made during this period.
WA’s Director of Energy Safety Saj Abdoolakhan said that only licensed and suitably qualified tradespeople can give advice or recommendations on work that falls within their area of expertise.
“There have been incidents where the person quoting on plumbing work has then also determined that electrical work needs to be carried out, such as replacement of the home’s switchboard or wiring,” Mr Abdoolakhan said.
“By law, only a licensed electrician can carry out electrical work, which includes assessing an electrical installation.
“My advice to consumers if offered advice about their electrical installations by a plumber or gas fitter who they have called to attend a plumbing or gas issue, is to ask to see the person’s electrical licence. Always get at least a second opinion or a second quote from another electrical contractor.
“It’s important that consumers check the licence, qualifications and experience of the people they are dealing with and the company they represent. Reject quotes and recommendations provided by unlicensed and unqualified operators who should be reported to Building and Energy.”
In summary, some consumer tips when engaging the services of a plumber and/or electrician:
- Get at least two quotes to compare recommendations and costs and ensure you are not paying too much or for work that may not need to be carried out;
- In plumbing emergencies, know where the water meter tap is located, so it can be turned off, allowing time to get multiple quotes;
- Do an online search or call Building and Energy to check that the individual plumber or electrician and the company they represent are licensed. This will require you to get the full name of the tradesperson as well as the company.
- Do not accept technical advice from unlicensed tradespeople or company sales representatives;
- Search for online reviews, get references from previous clients and ask for recommendations from family, friends and neighbours;
- Check your rights to a cooling off period if you want to change your mind; and
- If in doubt, contact Consumer Protection or Building and Energy for advice.
A licence search for a plumber, gas fitter or electrician in WA can be carried out on the Building and Energy website. Unlicensed activities can be reported by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 489 099.
Consumers who are having issues that cannot be resolved directly with the company can lodge an online complaint on the Consumer Protection website, email email@example.com or call 1300 30 40 54.
Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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