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Two people behind a concrete business have been fined $6,000 each by the Perth Magistrates Court and ordered to pay $7,215 in compensation to three consumers who paid deposits but did not receive any concrete supplies.
Dufty Jack Minhinnick, the registered owner of Niche Concrete Services of Coodanup near Mandurah, and Belinda Louise McFarland (nee Rodda), whose name was used to open the business bank accounts, pleaded guilty to three charges under the Australian Consumer Law of wrongfully accepting payment and failing to supply the goods and services within a reasonable time.
The business accepted deposits of:
The work was never carried out and refunds were never provided.
When Magistrate DeVries asked what had happened to the money, Mr Minhinnick replied “I dunno, spent it I guess”, a comment the Magistrate later described as a “disgrace”. The penalty, he added, was intended to send a powerful message to the community that these actions won’t be tolerated.
Magistrate DeVries noted that Ms McFarland had a poor record of dishonesty offences, having served a prison term for stealing as a servant as well as convictions for perverting the course of justice and fraud. His Honour said her criminal record cast doubt on her excuse that the work was not carried out due to the business failing financially.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said to take such large amounts of money from consumers and deliver nothing in return is a serious offence.
“The trust and faith of these three consumers were betrayed by these two business operators who had failed to either carry out the work as promised or provide refunds when requested,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Businesses should have sufficient cash flow to accept only small deposits for jobs and then charge the balance upon completion.
“Even though a business demands a 50 per cent deposit doesn’t mean consumers have to pay it. We recommend offering a smaller deposit or progress payments for bigger jobs, and if that is not accepted by the trader, take your business elsewhere.
“Paying large deposits upfront is risky business which the consumers in this case unfortunately found out.
“Bear in mind that tradies can only charge a maximum 6.5 percent deposit for some building work over the value of $7,500 so report them if they demand more.”
Consumers having problems with businesses failing to complete work within a reasonable time, or within agreed timeframes, should lodge a complaint on the Consumer Protection website. Enquiries can be made by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
Media Contact: Alina Cavanagh, (08) 6552 9471 / 0423 846 397 / email@example.com