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Fair Trading mows down The GrassFather in court

A Gold Coast landscaper has been ordered to pay more than $40,000 in fines and compensation in the Southport Magistrates Court (9 May 2022) following charges laid by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for breaching the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Ryan Wayne Hewson, sole director of The GrassFather Pty Ltd, which offers landscaping services, failed to appear in court and was found guilty of one count of wrongly accepting payment and failing to supply services under the ACL.

Mr Hewson was fined $15,000 and ordered to pay $11,500 in compensation to the consumer, and his company The GrassFather was fined $20,000.

The court heard Mr Hewson provided a quote of $23,000 for landscaping services. The consumer paid an $11,500 deposit and agreed to commence work between September and October 2021.

Mr Hewson did not show up to do the work on the promised dates and provided the consumer numerous reasons for the delay.

In the end the work was never started, the landscaper ceased contact with the consumer, and no refund was provided.

Commissioner for Fair Trading Victoria Thomson said traders who fail to deliver promised and paid for goods and services ruin their reputation and they risk undermining confidence in the marketplace.

“Under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses must not accept payment for products or services if they are not able to supply them and the OFT will not hesitate to action if they need to,” Ms Thomson said.

The OFT is also reminding consumers they can take some simple steps to help protect themselves when they are considering large purchases.

  • Research the trader, ask family and friends for recommendations, ask the trader for examples of their work that you can visit and view and discuss with the owners.
  • When any type of construction is involved check whether the trader has a licence with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission. The search is available free, online, at www.qbcc.qld.gov.au
  • Don’t pay large amounts of money upfront. Requests for large upfront payments should be a red flag. Consumers can request to pay a deposit, then amounts as the work progresses, with the remainder on delivery.  When construction work is involved the QBCC sets out the amounts which should be paid at each point in the process.
  • Consider whether making payments by credit card might give you extra protection.  Some credit cards allow customers to apply for a fee reversal when goods are not received. Consumers should talk to their financial service provider to see if their credit card offers this protection.

The OFT encourages consumers who have been unable to resolve a dispute with a trader to lodge a complaint via the OFT website at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.