‘Bitumen bandits’ named in organised scam operation
- Travelling conmen target WA consumers as part of international based scam
- Thirty-one reports in nine months totalling payments of over $264,000
- Commissioner for Consumer Protection says avoid these scam con artists who leave you with dodgy work
Consumer Protection is warning WA home and business owners to avoid dealing with at least eight road construction companies currently travelling around the state that offer to re-surface bitumen driveways and car parks for seemingly attractive prices, only to leave terrible bitumen work behind, in worse shape than before.
The travelling conmen known as ‘bitumen bandits’ use sub-standard materials, demand a higher fee than originally quoted and threaten to destroy the work completed if their invoices are not paid.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Trish Blake describes the operation as an international organised scam with directors often based in the U.K. or Ireland.
“It is the definition of dodgy and a complete scam – it has to stop,” Ms Blake said.
“These con artists posing as tradespeople have a blatant disregard for the law and use completely unethical business practices that prey on innocent people, tricking them into a ‘good deal’ but ultimately charge highly-inflated prices for shoddy work.
“They lie to potential customers, saying they have left-over bitumen from a job nearby so can offer a cheap price but the finished job is left uneven, thin and soft.
“In one case in Derby, the bitumen washed away with rain the next day but the customer was still invoiced $33,000 and demands were made for immediate payment.”
The bitumen bandits breach numerous consumer laws including coercing customers for payment after poor quality bitumen works are complete. They also approach potential customers uninvited with unsolicited consumer agreements, fail to observe the required 10 business day cooling off period, provide false representation as to the price of services and falsely claim to be affiliated with Main Roads and other reputable businesses.
In one instance, an invoice of $32,000 was provided to a Broome consumer after work was completed, which was more than four times the agreed quote of $7,000.
Consumer Protection first issued a public warning in April 2023 and has now received 31 complaints since 1 January 2023 about travelling conmen who have targeted consumers and business owners in regional areas including Albany, Australind, Bunbury, Picton, Williams, Narrogin, Wongan Hills, Collie, Boddington, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Derby, Carnarvon, Karratha, Broome and several suburbs in the Perth metropolitan area.
The eight bitumen companies – conveniently registered in WA or over east – and the directors that Consumer Protection warns consumers and businesses to avoid, are: Bitumen Road Services Pty Ltd (Director Andrew Watson); Road Tech Oz Pty Ltd (Director Jack Reagan Maskell); Road Tech Construction Oz Pty Ltd (Director Anthony Kenneth Lee); Regional Civils Pty Ltd (Director Jay Brough); Top Coat Civils Pty Ltd (Director Gabriel Thomas O’Malley Mackerness); Rolo Bitumen Pty Ltd (Director Lee Desmond Rowland); Civil Highways Pty Ltd (Director Jonathan Michael Hovvels) and Ground Fix Landscapes Pty Ltd (Director James Lee). Regular workers from the above companies include Anthony Kenneth Lee, Simon Ross, Tom Ross, Thomas Dean Whaley and Matthew Nunn.
The cost of bitumen work subject to Consumer Protection complaints ranges from $2,700 to $46,000 with the majority of complaints stating dissatisfaction with the quality of work, being invoiced exorbitant prices compared to the original quote and demands for immediate payment including threats to destroy completed work for non-payment.
“These scam con artists will leave you with dodgy work, harass you for payment and quickly move on, making it difficult for customers and authorities to catch up with them,” Ms Blake says.
“If you have already had bitumen works done by any of these companies and are unsatisfied, we recommend not paying the invoice and report it to Consumer Protection.”
Consumer Protection is working closely with authorities across the country including WA Police, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Home Affairs and other Australian Consumer Law regulators to identify action which may be taken against these conmen.
WA consumers are advised to resist approaches and high pressure sales tactics from the companies or individuals named and always seek multiple quotes from reputable local tradespeople.
To report these travelling conmen in WA, call Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information such as descriptions of the offenders, vehicle registration numbers or business names used are extremely useful.
Media Contact: Jasmine Sidhu, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / email@example.com
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