Consumer Protection Warns Against Bitumen Bandits

Image: File photo.
Image: File photo.

THERE are many pleasant things we associate with summer in WA, but unfortunately at Consumer Protection, it’s a time when we hear of ‘bitumen bandits’.

‘Bitumen bandits’ turn up at homes and businesses uninvited and then offer to lay driveways at supposedly discounted prices, often claiming they have asphalt left over from another job.

Chances are they will look suitably professional, for example wearing high-visibility work clothes and driving a utility vehicle or truck.

They may seem charming and technically experienced.

But once they’ve laid a driveway (usually in a sub-standard way with poor quality material like blue metal) their attitude will change, especially if you challenge them about value for money.

They’ve been known to force elderly people to hand over cash.

Once they have gone, it is unlikely you will be able to contact them again.

You can usually seek a repair, replacement or refund when there’s a problem with goods or services provided, but this option isn’t available when we can’t track down the supplier.

Regardless of how much of a bargain it may seem, Consumer Protection strongly recommends that you say NO to driveway layers who knock on your door out of the blue with an offer to start work immediately.

For homeowners, that deal in itself is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law, which says consumers get a 10 business-day cooling-off period to think over any uninvited offer before work is carried out or money changes hands.

These protections do not apply to businesses, but business premises are also targeted by ‘bitumen bandits’.

Any business owner or employee who is approached should turn away these travelling conmen and report details such as vehicle registrations, descriptions, names and phone numbers used, to either Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or local police.

Shop around for quotes from local, established driveway-laying service providers that are registered as Australian businesses.

Check up on their credentials (there’s an ABN search function on ASIC’s website) and reputation by looking for online reviews and asking for references.

Ensure you pay in a way that’s ‘through the books’, in case you later have issues with the work.

Visit the Consumer Protection website for more information.