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Consumer Protection is warning businesses not to deal with ‘bitumen bandits’ who offer to lay driveways on-the-spot with material supposedly leftover from another job.
A report received by Consumer Protection suggests that a British man is approaching business owners in the Willetton area with the offer of immediate start, drive-way laying services, using asphalt in his truck, leftover from another job.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe says carrying out work there and then is a sign of a travelling conman.
“Any tradesperson that approaches a consumer uninvited and carries out the job immediately is breaking the Australian Consumer Law by failing to allow a 10-day cooling off period for the customer to think over the unsolicited or uninvited offer,” he said.
“It is a bit different when a business is approached as these unsolicited consumer agreement provisions do not apply and unfortunately, often small businesses are just as vulnerable as consumers are to these fast-talking conmen.
“Experience tells us that travelling conmen can be convincing salespeople and mislead businesses or consumers about the value of the work being carried out and quality or source of the materials being used. They have been known to pressure the vulnerable or elderly and have even driven some customers to the bank and used stand-over tactics to get them to withdraw cash.”
The Acting Commissioner says because ‘bitumen bandits’ usually avoid staying in one place for too long that the warning is relevant to all Western Australian businesses.
“Once local authorities such as police and consumer protection officers are aware that these operators are targeting a particular area, alerts are issued, which can prevent the travelling conmen from convincing further members of that community to part with money.
“For that reason, all business and home owners in metropolitan Perth and wider WA should shop around for quotes and use local reputable tradespeople when having work carried out.
“Ordinarily if you have a problem with a service, such as a bitumen driveway laid too thinly, or of inferior quality, you can seek a repair, replacement or refund under the Australian Consumer Law. However, when travelling conmen arrive at your premises unannounced and with little identification, your opportunity to find them and exercise your rights is extremely limited.”
Report travelling conmen by calling Consumer Protection: 1300 30 40 54 with descriptions of the offenders, personal or business names used and vehicle registration numbers if possible.