Consumer Protection has released a guide to help renovators avoid dodgy workers, after a handyman was fined for pocketing money from consumers and failing to carry out the work he was paid for.
Daniel Murray Howard, who had previously been convicted of dishonesty offences, pleaded guilty to three contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law during a hearing at the Magistrates Court on 17 February, according to Consumer Protection.
He was fined $6,000 and ordered to pay a customer $2,150 in compensation. He was also ordered to pay Consumer Protection the $3,800 it cost to prosecute him.
“We have seen an increase in these sorts of offences where tradespeople take money and do not carry out the work at all or fail to complete it,” Consumer Protection acting Commissioner David Hillyard said.
“This is clearly illegal and as the enforcer of the Australian Consumer Law in Western Australia, Consumer Protection is here to take complaints about this type of behaviour and, if necessary, step into the shoes of affected parties to bring matters before the courts.”
In light of this case, Consumer Protection has released its guide for those looking to hire handymen:
• Get as many quotes as you can, to compare price and value, from tradespeople sourced through personal recommendations or chosen for industry association recognition. Avoid random selections, which rely on gut instinct and blind trust.
• If possible, examine previous work and speak to former clients. Search for positive or negative information online at websites such as www.commerce.wa.gov.au/cp
• Check that the business is registered at www.asic.gov.au. If it is a licensed profession, such as an electrician, carry out a licence search at www.commerce.wa.gov.au
• Ask for the cost of the job and time frame for completion in writing.
• Avoid paying deposits and pay no more than 10 per cent of the total before work has started or materials have been supplied. In WA, it is illegal to accept more than 6.5 per cent deposit for home building contracts above $7,500.
• Ask if they will take credit card payment to give you the possibility of getting a chargeback (transaction reversal) if work is not carried out or if a business collapses.
• Obtain a record of any payment made in the form of a detailed receipt or invoice.