On spot fine for plumbing company that refused to refund deposit

  • $6,600 infringement notice for failing to comply with unsolicited sales’ laws
  • Company initially refused to refund 50% deposit after contract cancelled
  • Consumers advised to get multiple quotes to avoid paying too much
  • A Perth plumbing and electrical company has been issued with a $6,600 infringement notice by Consumer Protection for breaking consumer laws related to unsolicited sales and initially refusing to refund a deposit.

    In May 2021, a Canning Vale home owner contacted the company, which can’t be named, to fix a leak in a hot water pipe. A plumber attended and advised the consumer that, in order to fix the leak, the hot water system would need to be replaced as it wasn’t serviceable.

    The consumer was provided a quote of $6,083 to fix the leak as well as replace the system and paid a 50% deposit by credit card. After the plumber left, the consumer contacted other plumbing contractors who indicated that the cost was excessive and they would charge only half the amount.

    When the consumer contacted the original company to cancel the contract, he was told that the deposit would not be refunded. It wasn’t until Consumer Protection intervened and issued the infringement notice that the $3,041.50 deposit was returned.

    Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe said that, under the Australian Consumer Law, an invitation to provide a quote does not constitute an invitation to carry out the work.

    “Circumstances where the consumer has only asked for a quote but ends up entering into a contract are regarded as an unsolicited consumer agreement which allows for a ten day cooling off period, during which the consumer can cancel the contract without penalty,” Mr Newcombe said.

    “No money can change hands or work be carried out during the cooling off period and the consumer must be given information on how they can cancel the contract if they change their mind.

    “The company’s failure to comply with these laws resulted in the infringement notice being issued and subsequently paid.

    “We are paying particular attention to the behaviour of some plumbing and electrical companies in their dealings with consumers and won’t hesitate to issue infringement notices or prosecute if there is evidence to support these actions.

    “We would urge home owners, even if the repairs are urgent, not to commit to any particular trader until multiple quotes have been obtained and they are assured they are getting a fair deal at a reasonable price.”

    A general warning to consumers regarding the behaviour of rogue plumbing and electrical companies was issued recently and includes some useful tips in dealing with them:

    Beware rogue plumbing/electrical companies that mislead consumers (20 May 2021)

    Consumers who believe their rights have been denied by a trader, can lodge a complaint via the Consumer Protection website. Enquiries can be made by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

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