Commissioner's Blog - Too much trust can mean tradie trouble
With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection, David Hillyard
Paying large amounts of money up front for nothing in return or hiring a tradesperson without a recommendation, or without seeing references or sighting previous good work are some of the mistakes Western Australians regularly make when having work carried out on their homes.
In the last few months we have issued new warnings about individuals and businesses that have been on our radar for a number of years, are consistently complained about and have faced previous legal actions. Despite evidence of their past bad behaviour and Consumer Protection’s advice to exercise caution e.g. at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumerprotection or www.commerce.wa.gov.au/undertakings, many consumers tell us they didn’t even think to do a web search before hiring them.
Familiar names that come up repeatedly include:
- Maxwell Raymond Healy and Alwyn Robert Healy – brothers involved in the sale of “reverse-cycle” air conditioning units that often do not heat as well as cool or are not supplied despite substantial deposits being taken. The most recent business registered by Max Healy is DualCycleAir. Alwyn Healy was first named by Consumer Protection in 2002, has been taken to Court many times and is the subject of a current enforceable undertaking. He has to date failed to pay back 50 customers who are owed about $127,000 in total.
- Christopher Brocklebank who runs Perth Evaporative Air & Gas Services, and has previously traded under the name Elements Hearth, Wind and Fire has a long track record of poor service and a large number of unhappy customers. He is currently awaiting trial to face charges of breaching the Australian Consumer Law and has been prosecuted previously by the Building Commission and EnergySafety.
- Sean Robert Weinthal – a tree lopper who most recently worked for West Australian Tree Services. That now deregistered business entered into an enforceable undertaking with Consumer Protection after a long history of complaints and legal actions.
Consumer Protection strongly recommends you do some internet research for positive or negative information when looking for a tradesperson to help you select someone who is reputable with a track record of good workmanship. It is even better if you can seek recommendations from relatives or friends (this can include your social media connections) or an industry body or association.
Before handing over any money:
- Ensure the business is registered – get the ABN and do a search on the Australian Securities Investments Commission website: www.asic.gov.au
- For licensed professions, such as an electrician or plumber, check the licence search facility at www.commerce.wa.gov.au
- View previous work carried out and verify references
- Consider paying by credit card due to the possibility of getting a chargeback (transaction reversal) if the work is not carried out
- Ask for a timeframe for completion of work and for this to be given in writing
Only pay deposits if absolutely necessary. We recommend no more than 10% of the total before work has started or any materials have been supplied. Remember for building contracts above $7,500 it is illegal for more than 6.5% deposit to be taken.
Make sure you get a record of any payment made and ensure that the receipt or invoice has the business details on it.
Under the Australian Consumer Law services must be carried out with due care and skill and in a reasonable amount of time. If you’re having trouble with a tradie and can’t resolve the issue, you can get in touch with Consumer Protection by calling: 1300 30 40 54 or emailing email@example.com. We may refer your case to our colleagues at the Building Commission.
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