The Supreme Court has overturned the acquittal of a Perth tree lopper and convicted him on six charges of breaking consumer law related to an unsolicited sale after a successful appeal by Consumer Protection.
Sean Robert Weinthal, who at the time of the offences was operating under the business name West Coast Trees, was acquitted of the charges by the Perth Magistrates Court in June 2019 but this was overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court on 30 April 2020. He will be sentenced on 13 July 2020.
In January 2017, Sean Weinthal attended the home of a Mosman Park consumer who responded to one of his flyers in the mail offering ‘free quotes’. She received a quote of $480 to remove a palm tree and, under pressure, agreed to the service and paid by credit card before receiving the quote in writing.
Arrangements were made for the work to be carried out next day. Later that day, the consumer contacted Mr Weinthal to cancel the contract and request a refund as she wanted the opportunity to get other quotes.
Mr Weinthal did not provide a refund, but the credit card charge was reversed by her bank four months later.
The Supreme Court concluded that, as the consumer asked Mr Weinthal for a quote only and not to enter into negotiations, the transaction was an unsolicited consumer agreement. As such, the consumer was entitled to a ten business day cooling off period and no payment should have been made during this period. As well, information about the consumer’s cancellation rights should have been provided and, upon cancellation, a refund given. Mr Weinthal failed to comply with these laws.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping advises consumers who request quotes from tradies not to be pressured into agreeing straight away.
“If you have invited the tradie just for a quote and not to carry out the work, then you are entitled to a cooling off period, and can cancel the contract with no penalty if you change your mind,” Ms Chopping said.
“We strongly recommend getting multiple quotes for major work and only pay a small deposit if you have to, as paying the full amount means you put yourself at risk if the work isn’t carried out and leave yourself with no bargaining power if the work is sub-standard.
“Consumers should also note the numerous public warnings and previous legal actions taken against Mr Weinthal and seek quotes from other more reputable tree loppers.”
Most recent public warning against Sean Weinthal:
11 January 2018: Consumers urged to avoid tree lopping family businesses