The operator of a business selling transportable homes has been penalised $400,000 and ordered to pay over $200,000 in compensation after accepting money from clients to construct and supply customised transportable buildings that were never provided.
Charles Leonard Fenton trading as Holtan Building and Maintenance Services has acknowledged that he breached sections 28 and 30 of the Building Work Contractors Act 1995 by contracting for domestic building work without a domestic building work contract in place, and requesting excessive payments.
Mr Fenton has entered into an assurance with the Commissioner that states he acknowledges the breaches and will rectify them.
A trader that fails to comply with an assurance may be liable for prosecution.
We’re all consumers. Sometimes we make big purchases like a car or caravan, but then there are lots of smaller purchases we make like going to the movies or buying new pillows and towels.
A new edition of The Savvy Consumer booklet has been launched to provide helpful advice to all consumers.
Topics covered in the booklet are:
- Smart shopping – including purchasing mobile phones, travel, cars
- Door to door sales and telemarketing
- Refund rights
- Home repairs and renovations
- Avoiding scams
- Product safety
- Fixing a problem.
If you buy or hire goods and services through an online marketplace or sharing economy platform, you are protected by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), in the same way as you would be if you were to buy in store.
Traders are protected by the ACL and also have obligations to consumers, like guaranteeing that the services and goods they’re providing comply with the law.
Consumers – If you buy goods and services
Your rights don’t change if you hire goods or buy services online, through an app or sharing platform, or if you make in-store purchases. You have consumer guarantee rights.
If there is a problem:
- Check the platform’s terms and conditions and their complaint management process, if they have one.
- You may be able to cancel the contract and get a refund if a consumer guarantee isn’t met
Follow these simple steps to resolve the issue:
- speak to the seller or service provider
- contact the platform through their internal dispute resolution process, if they have one
- write a factual customer review and rate the trader on the platform
- contact Consumer and Business Services for advice if the matter isn’t resolved with the platform and/or trader.
Traders – If you hire or sell goods and services
- platform operators must not mislead or deceive you
- you have consumer guarantee rights when buying services from a platform operator
- there are certain circumstances where it is illegal for a platform operator to refuse to supply you
- you can refuse to provide a refund if the consumer has simply changed their mind.
If you believe a consumer has not held up their end of a contract for a good or service, some platforms have their own internal resolution process to deal with this. Read your platform’s community rules and internal resolution process guidelines.
Contact Consumer and Business Services for advice if you aren’t able to resolve a problem with the platform or consumer first.
- Be transparent about the product or service you are advertising so there are no surprises to consumers
- Avoid misleading or deceptive statements
- Make sure reviews provided about your service or product are not misleading or fake
- You must comply with product safety obligations.
The Supreme Court has ordered that pecuniary penalties of $150,000 be paid by the operators of a former Adelaide-based travel agent for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law which included leaving clients in the lurch at the check in gate in foreign countries.
Consumer and Business Services began legal action against the former operators of Olympia Express Tourist and Travel, Vasilios Koutropoulos and Mary Boufkas, in December 2015, alleging that they engaged in conduct that was misleading and deceptive, made false and misleading representations, and wrongly accepted payment from consumers in connection with the supply of international airline services and other travel products.
Fair Trading (Ticket Scalping) Amendment Bill 2018
This Bill was introduced into Parliament on 30 May 2018 and aims to increase consumer protection around ticket scalping.
It will be illegal for anyone to sell tickets or advertise the sale of tickets at a price that is more than 110% of the original ticket price.
The law will apply to ticket sales for all sporting and entertainment events in South Australia (SA), where the event is subject to a resale restriction. An event will no longer need to be declared as a ‘major event’ in order for ticket scalping protections to apply.
It will also be an offence for anyone to use ‘ticket bots’ or other software to purchase tickets to an event in SA.
Ticket reselling will be allowed, as long as the advertised price is capped at 110% of the original ticket price and provided that certain information is disclosed in the advertisement.
The Fair Trading (Ticket Scalping) Amendment Bill 2018 is available at www.legislation.sa.gov.au
Many winter products can be unsafe if they are old, faulty or used incorrectly. To help you stay safe while keeping warm this winter, here are our top tips.
No matter what type of heater you have, check it every winter to make sure it’s safe to use. Check the electrical cables and make sure there are no exposed wires or loose connections. Only use one appliance per power point and switch each appliance off when not in use.
Gas heaters must be vented adequately as the carbon monoxide produced when the gas is burnt is odourless, colourless and deadly. It is important to have gas heaters serviced regularly by a qualified tradesperson to ensure there are no carbon monoxide leaks.
- Heaters should be placed on a flat, level surface
- Never use a gas heater or BBQ made for outdoor use inside your home
- Always supervise children and pets when heaters are in use
- Keep heaters well clear from items that might burn. A minimum of 1 metre clearance from clothes, bedding, furniture, curtains and other combustibles is recommended.
Regular maintenance of fireplaces, combustion heaters, flues and chimneys must be undertaken by a qualified person at least once a year (at the start of winter) to ensure that the heater or fireplace works properly and safely.
- Place a mesh screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks and wood falling out
- Make sure the chimney is clean and properly ventilated
- Never use petrol, oil or kerosene to help light the fire. They could cause an explosion.
A well-insulated and well-designed home can halve the cost of cooling and heating. Selecting the right insulation and having it correctly installed is a once only cost. It will last the life of the building with no further maintenance cost.
Unfortunately over 11,000 house fires and 60 fatalities have been linked to non-compliant insulation in Australia and New Zealand.
- Always use a qualified installer for insulation
- If you are doing home repairs do not move insulation and ensure it is not over or around recessed light fittings
- Keep foil products away from electrical power outlets or lights, as they can conduct electricity through the metal reflective covering.
Hot water bottles
Hot water bottles are made of rubber or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and can deteriorate with age. Each year, 200 people in Australia are treated for serious burns from hot water bottles.
- Don’t overfill or use boiling water – use hot tap water instead
- Avoid direct contact with your skin – use a fitted cover or wrap the bottle before use
- Never leave on one body part for more than 20 minutes.
If your electric blanket has been stored away, inspect it before use. Look for frayed fabric, exposed elements, damaged cords or scorch marks. If you notice any damage, throw the blanket away. Damaged or faulty electric blankets can cause an electric shock or a fire.
- Don’t sleep with your electric blanket on – warm the bed and then turn it off
- Never place heavy items on your bed when the electric blanket is turned on
- Seek advice about using an electric blanket if you have diabetes or are pregnant
- If you remove your electric blanket after winter, always store it rolled up.
Follow the heating instructions for your wheat bag and never heat more than instructed. Homemade wheat bags can pose a fire and injury risk because the moisture content and volume of these bags is not known so there are no heating times to guide you. Over time the organic fillings inside wheat packs can dry out and become more combustible.
Don’t place a heated wheat pack on or under bedding. Blankets trap the product’s heat and may cause it to ignite.
Allow the wheat pack to cool completely each time before reheating
If you notice a burning smell, let the bag cool and then dispose of it.
Each year Australian children are admitted to hospital with burns sustained after their clothing has caught fire. Even if clothing items have a ‘low fire danger’ label they are still flammable.
- Be cautious of children’s clothing purchased online or from overseas. They may not be subject to Australian standards
- Keep your child away from open flames and heaters
- Avoid buying loose fitting sleepwear, dressing gowns and clothing which could easily catch alight.
More than 50 people across Australia die each year from house fires and many more are injured. The majority of these homes did not have working smoke alarms. Only working smoke alarms can provide early warning and time to escape. You lose your sense of smell when you are asleep. A working smoke alarm reduces your chance of dying in a house fire by half.
- Test your smoke alarm is working every month
- Replace your alarm battery every year
- Replace your smoke alarm every 10 years. If you move house, check the alarm – the date of manufacture should be displayed on the smoke alarm.
Candles, matches and lighters
Candles can look and smell nice, but they are one of the most common causes of house fires. Extinguish a candle prior to leaving a room or before going to sleep. Ensure the wick ember is no longer glowing.
- Store matches and lighters in a safe place, out of reach of children
- Never leave children alone with any open flame
- Keep lit candles away from combustible material – e.g. curtains, bedding, clothing.
While mould is not a major health hazard for most people, it can present problems for pregnant women, children and people with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases. Vulnerable people should not be present when mould is removed.
- Open windows and doors each day to ventilate your home and reduce mould growth
- Don’t let it settle in, clean up mould as soon as you notice it
- Scrub mould off hard surfaces using soapy water. All the mould must be physically removed to prevent regrowth
- Scrub up to 50cm from the edge of the visible mould as there may be new growth that is not visible to the naked eye.
- Clean up any mould residue caused by the scrubbing. Use a damp cloth or vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
- Dry the area and then find and fix the source of the moisture.
For more information about product safety – including safety warning notices, recalls, bans and new safety standards – please visit www.productsafety.gov.au
South Australians are being urged to look out for scammers who use threats to scare people into giving them money or personal information, as part of Scams Awareness Week from 21 to 25 May 2018.
Dini Soulio, Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, today said that South Australians lost more than $3.6 million to scams in 2017, including almost $26,000 to scams that scared victims into parting with their money, such as threatening someone’s life.
It could be quite alarming to get a phone call or email from someone threatening that you’ll be fined or arrested or that your computer will be shut down. But this Scams Awareness Week we’re urging consumers to take a moment to ‘Stop and check: is this for real?’
Scammers may pretend to be from a government agency or a well-known business and their aim is to scare you into parting with your money or personal information.
The ACCC’s Scamwatch received almost 33,000 reports of these scams in 2017. Over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.
How these scams work
Scammers may claim that you have a tax debt or there are problems with your government benefits, immigration papers or visa status. They say you must pay them money or give them remote access to your computer immediately otherwise:
- you’ll be fined or charged additional fees
- your internet will be disconnected
- the police or debt collectors will be sent to your home
- you’ll be taken to court, arrested or deported.
They may send you an email with an attachment or a link to download proof of the ‘bill’, ‘fine’ or ‘missed delivery details’. But if you open the attachment or download the file it could infect your computer with malware.
Tips to protect yourself
- When dealing with uninvited contacts always consider the possibility that it may be a scam.
- Check whether the contact is genuine. Use the phone book or do an online search to contact the company and ask if they contacted you. Don’t use contact details provided by the caller or in the message they sent to you.
- If a caller threatens you, hang up, then check whether their story is real. Speak to a trusted friend or family member about what has happened.
- Don’t respond to threatening emails or voicemail messages. If you call them back the scammers may increase their intimidation and attempts to get your money.
- Never send money or give your bank account details, credit card details or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust, and never by email or over the phone.
- A government agency or trusted business will never ask you to pay by unusual methods such as with gift cards, iTunes cards, wire transfers or bitcoin.
- Don’t open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails and don’t click on links or open attachments – just delete them.
- Never give anyone remote access to your computer if they’ve contacted you out of the blue – even if they claim to be from a well-known company.
Have you been scammed?
If you’ve lost money or given personal information to a scammer, there are steps you can take straight away to limit the damage and protect yourself from further loss.
- If you’ve sent money or shared your banking or credit card details, contact your financial institution immediately. They may be able to stop or reverse a transaction, or close your account.
- If you’ve given your personal information to a scammer, visit IDCARE (www.idcare.org), Australia and New Zealand’s not-for-profit national identity and cyber support service. IDCARE can work with you to develop a specific response plan to your situation and support you through the process.
- As scammers are often based overseas, it is extremely difficult for government agencies to track them down or for law enforcement to take action against them. So take the time to warn your friends and family about these scams.
For more information about scams, where to get help if you’ve been scammed or to report a scam, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au
Scams Awareness Week is an initiative of the Scams Awareness Network, a group of Australian and New Zealand government agencies with responsibility for consumer protection and policing in scams, cyber safety and fraud.
A new online register will soon allow customers to check if their hairdresser or barber is qualified.
The register is due to go live later this year as part of the Hair and Beauty Association of South Australia’s ‘Qualified Hairdressers Project’.