The State’s consumer watchdog is warning residents on the State’s West Coast to be on guard for dodgy people posing as bitumen layers.
Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, Dini Soulio, says the travelling conmen are offering unsolicited work laying bitumen around the Penong area.
“Consumer and Business Services (CBS) has received reports from SA Police of a group matching the description of a group that targeted Port Lincoln and other parts of the Eyre Peninsula earlier this year,” Mr Soulio said.
“We believe it’s a small group of men with Irish accents who have made approaches in the area offering to undertake bitumen work for cash.
“The group were seen travelling in a white Mitsubishi Triton ute with NSW licence plate CC92RH sedan and a white Hino tipper truck with personalised plates “HOT-TAR”.
“We understand that they have approached numerous people in and around Penong, offering to lay bitumen, and in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars have been handed over.
“CBS is working with SA Police to try to track down the conmen.
“A tactic used by similar bitumen bandits in the past have targeted properties with long, unsealed driveways with claims they have leftover bitumen from a previous job and offer to provide services at a discounted price,” Mr Soulio said.
“Bitumen layers are required to be licensed under the Building Work Contractors Act. There is no indication that these individuals are licensed.”
The growth in traveling conmen scams involving bitumen laying, roof painting, tree lopping and other building trade services has resulted in an increasing number of South Australian consumers experiencing poor quality and costly work.
“The work is often substandard, with bitumen laid too thin, and breaking up as soon as any vehicles are driven on it.
“Once payment is handed over, the conmen will disappear, making it extremely difficult to seek redress for shoddy or incomplete work, so any repairs will cost you extra.
“They typically use state and territory borders to escape detection by authorities.
“Under Australian Consumer Law, these dodgy traders operate in breach of door-to- door sales regulations.
“Consumers are entitled to ask door knockers to leave, or to provide a 10-day cooling off period during which the trader cannot provide any goods or services or accept any payment.
Individual traders who breach the legislation under the Australian Consumer Law can also face penalties of up to $220,000 and up to $1,100,000 for companies.
Undertaking unlicensed building work carries penalties of up to:
- $50,000 for a first or second offence; or
- $50,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both for a third or subsequent offence
- for an offence committed by a body corporate this penalty increases to 250,000.
“I urge residents on the West Coast to be vigilant and take precautions if approached by tradespeople. However, the conmen may be on the move, so anyone who is approached for bitumen work should be wary.
“Please ensure you ask them to produce their SA builder’s licence card or alternatively you can check if they are licenced by using the online CBS licensing register.”
South Australians who have any information about these travelling conmen or any iterant traders are encouraged to contact CBS on 131 882.