Commissioner's Blog: Let’s nip tree lopper issues in the bud
With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Some tree loppers tout for business by putting flyers in letterboxes, advertising in the local newspaper or on noticeboards, promoting their services via social media, such as community Facebook pages, or advertising via online classifieds such as Gumtree.
In 2015 Consumer Protection received 160 enquiries and 34 complaints about tree loppers tending to relate to:
- damage to property
- failure to complete the job as agreed, for example not grinding stumps
- not removing debris / waste
- bullying tactics when sub-standard work is challenged.
To cut down your chance of having issues with a tree lopper we have some simple tips.
Get at least two written quotes as prices can vary dramatically. The quote should specify that it is for your property and itemise all fees and charges, including tax.
Check the qualifications and reputation of anyone you get a quote from.
Qualifications: Do they have a Certificate in Horticulture (Arboriculture)? Are they recommended by a nationally recognised organisation like Arboriculture Australia (check www.arboriculture.org.au) or are they a member of an association such as the Tree Guild of WA (www.treeguildwa.asn.au)?
Reputation: Ask for references, inspect previous work carried out and search the business name online for positive or negative comments. Consumer Protection has issued warnings and taken various legal actions about WA Tree Services (formerly Manageable Tree Services, Metropolitan Tree Services and West Australian Tree Professional). An enforceable undertaking can be viewed at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/undertakings
Ask whether they have current public liability insurance and if you can see the policy. It’s important to confirm any damage caused by their work is their responsibility not yours.
Ensure there is a clear understanding about what the quote includes, for example grinding to below ground level as opposed to leaving a tree stump visible.
Clarify who is responsible for the removal of any tree cuttings. Some tree loppers are known to actively seek work prior to Council or Shire green waste pick up, however you need to check if there are any rules associated with your verge collection service as they can stipulate how long refuse can be left out. If a tree lopper has advertised that a green waste collection is coming up and your local government authority confirms this to be untrue, report the potentially false and misleading claim to Consumer Protection.
Once you’ve selected a tree lopper, be sure to get details of the job clearly outlined in a written contract, including a set date for completion of work and noting how debris is to be disposed. Work should only commence once you have signed this document to show your agreement.
If you have to pay a deposit keep the amount to a minimum (no more than 10 per cent) and get a receipt for any monies paid.
Only pay the full amount when the job is finished to a satisfactory standard, in line with the written agreement.
Remember under the Australian Consumer Law, it is an offence to use coercion to obtain payment from customers.
Home owners who have experienced problems with tree loppers, including bullying or harassment upon expressing dissatisfaction, can contact Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or firstname.lastname@example.org.