Commissioner's Blog: Trust in trades puts renovators at risk
With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Watching The Block might have inspired you to get cracking on some home renovations but unlike the TV show contestants you won’t have access to host Scotty’s ‘black book of trades’. So, how do you go about finding trustworthy, reliable tradespeople who’ll do a good job for the right price? We’ve got some tips to help you avoid tradie trouble.
Experience tells us consumers in WA have a tendency to accept tradespeople on face value and often they’ll pay large amounts of money up front without anything in return.
A typical scenario involves a home-owner finding a tradesperson, who is previously unknown to them, via Gumtree or a community Facebook page. During a first meeting at the property the consumer agrees to a deal on gut instinct because they “like” the tradie and think the quote is value for money. They pay a deposit, sometimes as much as 50%, by direct bank transfer (we advise against this!) and then there are delays or the work isn’t up to the expected standard, if it is carried out at all.
On the flipside we have people, often those who are senior, who get a well-known, heavily advertised company out to quote and feel pressured during a slick sales pitch. They sign a contract on the day to get a supposedly limited-time offer, perhaps with deal sweeteners, such as price reduction offers for displaying signs promoting the business etc. In reality if they’d said no and shopped around they could have got the same job done for a more competitive price.
It’s worth noting that under consumer law, if a salesperson comes to your home to quote but enters into negotiations to supply, you get a 10 business day cooling off period to think about it, check prices and if it’s not what you expected you can cancel the contract.
Before hiring a tradesperson or services-provider and handing over any money, there are things you should consider doing to protect yourself.
- Get as many quotes as you can, preferably from personally recommended or industry association recognised tradespeople. Getting multiple quotes may take time but could result in significant savings and you’ll be more likely to pick the right person for the job.
- Verify claims. Ask to see previous work and speak to past clients. Don’t rely on photos or written testimonials. Sight any public liability insurance policy they claim to have.
- Check that the business is registered at www.asic.gov.au and if it’s a licensed profession, such as an electrician or plumber, carry out a licence search on the Department of Commerce website: www.commerce.wa.gov.au.
- Do some general internet research for positive or negative information. See www.commerce.wa.gov.au/cp or www.commerce.wa.gov.au/undertakings for individuals or businesses named by Consumer Protection.
The Australian Consumer Law requires services to be carried out with due care and skill and in a reasonable amount of time but some operators flout the law. For example there are air conditioning suppliers, concreters and tree loppers who have been on our radar for a number of years, are consistently complained about and have faced previous legal actions.
When entering into any trades or services agreement we recommend that you:
- Get for the cost of the job and timeframe for completion of work 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.
- Ask if the business will take credit card payment. If they do, this could offer a safeguard because of the possibility of getting a chargeback (transaction reversal) if the work is not carried out or the business folds.
- Obtain a record of any payment made and ensure the receipt or invoice has the business details on it.
For assistance from Consumer Protection, call: 1300 30 40 54 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Depending on the nature of your enquiry we may refer you to our colleagues at the Building Commission.
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