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Be on the lookout for unscrupulous shonks

26 June 2018

South Australia’s consumer watchdog has urged consumers to take extra care, with shonky tradies ripping off in excess of $230,000 from consumers in the past seven months.

Commissioner for Consumer Affairs Dini Soulio said Consumer and Business Services continued to receive calls from people who have paid what appear to be a group of itinerant tradies for work that’s either been performed to a very poor standard or not even started.

“These individuals appear to be targeting elderly consumers, asking for deposits for work they often have no intention of completing,” he said.

“As far as we can tell, they’re unlicensed – in some cases they appear to be using fake licence numbers and ABNs to try and dupe unwitting consumers.

“While we had issued a warning in February this year, it’s clear these people – or others - are still taking advantage of consumers in suburban Adelaide.”

Since the beginning of December, CBS has received 30 calls from individuals from across suburban Adelaide – including North Adelaide, Rosewater, St Peters, Hawthorn, Eastwood, Lower Mitcham, Cheltenham, Henley Beach, Glenside, Linden Park, West Lakes, Plympton and Woodcroft.

Mr Soulio said the tradies were offering the services through pamphlets dropped in consumers’ letter boxes and often sought payment in cash to stymie any attempt to track them down.

He urged anyone seeking to hire a tradie to be vigilant.

“It’s disappointing that we continue to see unscrupulous operators seeking to take advantage of others, but there are simple steps that consumers can take to guard against scammers,” Mr Soulio said.

“Firstly, ask to see their licence – an occupational licence is a form of photo identification, so this will help you make sure that the person is who they say they are, and that they’re licensed to do the job.

“Secondly, know your rights when it comes to deposits for work that is to be undertaken – for jobs valued at less than $12,000 there is no limit, but a deposit of more than $1000 is usually considered unreasonable.

“For jobs valued at between $12,000 and $20,000 the builder or tradie can’t seek a deposit of more than $1000 and – if the job’s valued at more than $20,000 – a maximum of five per cent of the total.

“And finally, make sure you read the contract – and never sign on the dotted line unless you’ve read the contract, understand it and agree to all the terms and conditions.”

Mr Soulio encouraged any consumer who had concerns to contact CBS on 131 882.