Connolly tree lopper fined $6000 for breaching consumer law

Stock image.
Stock image.

A CONNOLLY tree lopper has been fined $6000 and ordered to pay $887 in costs for breaching his customers’ consumer rights to a cooling off period.

Mitchell Craig Grisbrook, trading as Elite Trees, today pleaded guilty to four charges of failing to comply with laws related to unsolicited consumer agreements involving two home owners.

In January 2017 Elite Trees provided the owner of a South Fremantle home with a quote of $1150 to prune a tree.

The quote was immediately accepted by the owner.

Elite Trees failed to inform the consumer of her right to cancel the contract during the cooling off period and then delivered services before the cooling off period had expired.

The full payment was deducted from the owner’s credit card account and, while some work was carried out, the job was not completed, nor did the owner receive compensation.

In July 2017 Elite Trees gave a quote of $2145 to a Cottesloe home owner for the removal and stump grinding of trees.

The quote was verbally accepted by the owner and payment for the full amount was immediately deducted from the owner’s credit card, but the consumer was not given any documentation or receipts.

The trees were removed on the same day but the stump grinding was never carried out as agreed.

Elite Trees failed to inform the consumer of his right to cancel the contract during the cooling off period and also delivered services before the cooling off period had expired.

Under Australian Consumer Law, an invitation to quote does not constitute an invitation to carry out the work.

Traders have to provide their customers with information on the 10 business day cooling off period and how they can cancel the contract during this time.

No work should be carried out or money taken until the cooling off period has expired.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard warned that paying the full amount before the work is completed leaves consumers vulnerable.

“By paying the full amount upfront, consumers leave themselves with no bargaining power if the work is sub-standard or not completed as agreed,” Mr Hillyard.

“Apart from getting multiple quotes, consumers should get quotes in writing that document what has been agreed, such as the inclusion of stump grinding, so there are no disputes afterwards.

“The quote should also specify an agreed timeframe for the completion of the job.

“Consumers should also be aware of the cooling off period that applies in these circumstances and ensure that the trader complies with the laws that are designed to protect consumers who need time to carefully consider the quote or get other quotes to compare.”

Consumers who have any issues with unsolicited agreements can contact Consumer Protection by email to consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.