TWO people behind a Coodanup concrete business have been fined $6000 each by the Perth Magistrates Court and ordered to pay $7215 in compensation.
The compensation is for three consumers who paid deposits but did not receive any concrete supplies.
Dufty Jack Minhinnick, the registered owner of Niche Concrete Services, and Belinda Louise McFarland (nee Rodda), whose name was used to open the business bank accounts, pleaded guilty to three charges under the Australian Consumer Law of wrongfully accepting payment and failing to supply the goods and services within a reasonable time.
The business accepted deposits of:
* $2,303 from a consumer in Caversham for a concrete driveway in December 2016,
* $4,351 from a consumer in The Vines for pool surrounds and other work in February 2017 and
* $561 from a consumer in Singleton for a concrete driveway in August 2017.
The work was never carried out and refunds were never provided.
When Magistrate Edward DeVries asked what had happened to the money, Mr Minhinnick replied “I dunno, spent it I guess.”
Mr De Vries later described the comment as a “disgrace”. The penalty was intended to send a powerful message to the community that these actions would not be tolerated.
Mr DeVries said Ms McFarland had a poor record of dishonesty offences. He said her criminal record cast doubt on her excuse that the work was not carried out due to the business failing financially.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said to take such large amounts of money from consumers and deliver nothing in return was a serious offence.
“The trust and faith of these three consumers were betrayed by these two business operators,” he said.
“Businesses should have sufficient cash flow to accept only small deposits for jobs and then charge the balance upon completion.
“Even though a business demands a 50 per cent deposit doesn’t mean consumers have to pay it.
“We recommend offering a smaller deposit or progress payments for bigger jobs, and if that is not accepted by the trader, take your business elsewhere.
“Paying large deposits upfront is risky business which the consumers in this case unfortunately found out.
“Tradies can only charge a maximum 6.5 percent deposit for some building work over the value of $7500, so report them if they demand more.”
Consumers having problems with businesses failing to complete work within a reasonable time, or within agreed timeframes, should lodge a complaint on the Consumer Protection website. Email email@example.com or by calling 1300 30 40 54.